Sleep Deprived? Is your Caffeine Intake to Blame?
There is no escaping the fact that today’s society operates at a pretty frenetic pace. Our busy lives leave us feeling tired, mentally fatigued and suffering with brain fog. A common go-to prescription for dealing with these side effects is caffeine. Every day, billions of us rely on it to kick start our morning, get us through a long working day or survive a night shift. But caffeine is also known for its negative impact on sleep and cognitive function.
Caffeine is a chemical compound which stimulates our Central Nervous System (CNS). It is easily accessible, whether it be in the form of coffee, tea, energy drinks or tablets.
Caffeine: The Desired Effects
Some of the known benefits of caffeine are greater alertness and enhanced performance. In recent studies, it was found that “moderate doses of caffeine can improve cognitive function, including vigilance, learning, memory, and mood state. When cognitive performance is critical…administration of caffeine may provide a significant advantage”. See the attached article for more details https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00213-002-1217-9.
Caffeine: The Unwanted Effects
On the flip side, caffeine blocks the production of melatonin which regulates our sleep/wake cycle. This can affect our circadian rhythm (human biological clock) as caffeine has disruptive effects if taken 6 hours prior to when you fall asleep. See the attached article for more details https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/10.5664/jcsm.3170
The health implications of sleep deprivation and how it can effect performance in daily tasks is a hugely important aspect. Sleep deprivation results in the loss of cognitive processes such as memory and insight formation. These are the building blocks of learning and creativity. They allow us to better complete tasks and understand what we are doing when performing the task at hand. There may not be that much of a noticeable change in the short term. However, long-term sleep loss has been associated with a number of health consequences. These include an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.
The way forward
If you feel you struggle to achieve good quality sleep or experience issues with performing daily tasks, I would recommend tracking:
- how much caffeine you consume each day
- what time you drink it
- your quantity and quality of sleep
Given the strong link between all of the above, you might need to moderate your intake and restrict the time of day you are consuming it.
To conclude, caffeine in itself doesn’t have a detrimental impact on your health. What does have an impact is the potential sleep loss or impairment to your cognitive processes.