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Drinking Coffee Before Bed: Is It Really a Bad Idea?

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Who has never said, or heard: "Coffee? Ah no, thanks. I'm not going to be able to sleep!" ? 

When I investigate my clients' lifestyle (as well as their sleep hygiene), I realize that coffee is still a product that is regularly consumed on a daily basis. Some use it to stay awake, others to try to increase their physical performance... 

But none of them really dare to drink coffee before bed, fearing the negative effects of caffeine.

Are they right?

Well, yes they are! Drinking coffee before bed might indeed influence your ability to sleep properly. But there are also some nuances that are important and that I will now explain to you.


The Effects of Caffeine: An Impediment to Sleep

The benefits of coffee have been proven. A single coffee bean contains more than 800 molecules. The most important element remains, of course: caffeine! It is responsible for the stimulating effect of coffee.

The effect of coffee (through caffeine) is to inhibit the action of a molecule (adenosine), taking its place on specific nerve areas. The action of adenosine is to slow down the activity of the nervous system, which normally leads to drowsiness, thus allowing sleep.

Basically, if your nervous system was a company, caffeine would sit at adenosine's desk and prevent it from doing its job, such as sending emails to the boss (the brain) asking him to slow down the body's activity. By taking his place, caffeine prevents adenosine from sending messages and therefore keeps us more alert, more "excited", increases our attention. We are less tired.

Effects of cafeine & adenosine.


But, Is It Still Possible to Drink Coffee Before Bed?

It's a very legitimate question, especially for lovers of a little espresso at the end of the evening.

Being able to drink coffee before bed depends on the amount consumed, the type of preparation, the coffee bean used, and who you are. 


Some Basic Rules to maintain the effects of caffeine under control:

  • Quantity and Type of Coffee:
  • One should not exceed 4-5 cups of standard coffee (a.k.a the morning "Tim") per day to avoid the negative effects of coffee (nervousness, fast heartbeat, irritability, etc.).

    These 4-5 cups of filter coffee correspond to 6-7 espressos.

    Espresso seems stronger than filter coffee. But it is only stronger in taste: the more the coffee is diluted, the more caffeine is present


  • Type of Grain
  • Type of coffee grain: arabica vs robusta.

    Arabica coffee should be preferred to the robusta variety (which has 2x more caffeine).


  • Human Genetics: 
  • Not everyone is in the same boat! 

    Some people have a natural ability to reduce the duration of coffee effects by eliminating caffeine from the body more effectively. These people can therefore drink more coffee before bed, without having too much difficulty to sleep.


    Drinking Coffee Before Bed: Tips Recap

    Drinking coffee before bed may not be recommended if you hope to get a good night's sleep.

    Now, if an intense caffeinated craving comes up in the evening, it is important to follow some basic principles to limit the effects of caffeine on sleep: 

    • Not to have already exceeded the recommended dose of caffeine for the day (remember: max 4-5 cups of filter coffee, or max 6-7 espressos per day).
    • Prefer an espresso of Arabica variety, not Robusta (which is 2x stronger in caffeine).
    • And above all, make sure that your body eliminates coffee well: thank you genetics!

    If not, don't hesitate to abstain. Or you can also choose to go on with a small "decaf".


    And the Nap? Shall We Talk About It?

    Well, an English research provides an astonishing answer to this question. Coffee would not be a bad thing, on the contrary.

    The best practice would be to do both: drink coffee, before a nap!

    1) Taking a nap lowers the level of adenosine during the day (remember adenosine? We talked about it at the beginning).

    2) Drinking a cup of coffee, before falling asleep, helps to stimulate our attention. This effect of caffeine would be felt after 20 minutes, which is adequate time for a nap.

    So for an optimal nap: drink a cup of coffee beforehand and program your dial to 20 min!

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