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Caffeine & Sleep

Caffeine is a naturally occurring substance found in a number of foods and beverages around the world. Today, it is common to use it as a way to ‘wake up’ and be ready for your day. Recently, professionals in the sleep industry have suggested that excessive caffeine use may be masking a serious sleep disorder.

Caffeine is absorbed rapidly on consumption and reaches peak blood concentration in 30-75 minutes. An estimated 80% of absorbed caffeine is found in your brain where it blocks the sleep hormone. Adenosine to repress and increase alertness. In doing so, it counteracts a major symptom of sleep apnea - daytime sleepiness. According to the Australian Bureau of Statstics, Australian adults aged 51-70 years on average consume over 170mg of the substance daily². Taken later in the day, these levels can significantly affect your sleep quality.

Sleep quality is measured by a number of variables including sleep latency (the time taken for you to fall asleep), sleep duration and sleep efficiency (percentage of REM sleep - the more reparative stage of sleep in your sleep cycle). Caffeine has been shown to increase sleep latency and decrease sleep durations with the effects being particularly significant in middle aged to older adults. This indicates a heightened sensitivity to caffeine in this age group - the same demographic that is most likely to have sleep apnea. 

Reducing your caffeine intake could unmask these symptoms and it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Here are 5 tips for getting through your day without caffeine.

Drink lots of water!

Replace your morning coffee with something else. Warm lemon juice and water or orange juice are great alternatives. If you need something more substantial, perhaps start with some tea. Black tea is the most caffeine rich tea but it is still significantly less than your average coffee.

Know what you’re in for

Caffeine is a drug and taking yourself off it, isn’t going to be easy. As with any drug, the withdrawal symptoms are going to be tough. The key is to be prepared. Caffeine withdrawals have been associated with:

  • Headaches 
  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased energy levels
  • Fatigue 
  • Decreased alertness and contentedness 
  • Depressed mood
  • Irritability 

Typically, the symptoms peak at 20-51 hours after abstinence and last about 2-9 days based on your level of dependency.

Take your time

It doesn’t need to be an immediate withdrawal. If you currently drink 4 cups of coffee a day, come up with a plan to wean yourself off day by day. On the first day drink three and a half cups. On day two reduce yourself to just three and so on. Alternatively you can begin by switching to half strength or weaker coffees (such as a latte or babycino) and slowly move towards decaf.

Regulate your sleep pattern

You wouldn’t need coffee to wake yourself up if you get enough sleep! Adults need about 7-8 hours of sleep every night and your bodies love routine. Train yourself to fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day. Before you know it, you’ll be waking up in a good mood. Learn more about your body clock and regulating your sleep pattern here.    

Positive Attitude

It’s normal for any change in your routine to put a damper on your mood and limiting your caffeine is no different. Getting through that first week will be tough but the benefits far outweigh the initial uneasiness and your body with thank you for it in the long run.


1. Aurora, R., Crainiceanu, C., Caffo, B., & Punjabi, N. (2012). Sleep-Disordered Breathing and Caffeine Consumption. Chest, 142(3), 631-638. doi: 10.1378/chest.11-2894
2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2018). CAFFEINE.
3. Chung, F., Subramanyam, R., Liao, P., Sasaki, E., Shapiro, C., & Sun, Y. (2012). High STOP-Bang score indicates a high probability of obstructive sleep apnoea. British Journal Of Anaesthesia, 108(5), 768-775. doi: 10.1093/bja/aes022
4. Clark, I., & Landolt, H. (2017). Coffee, caffeine, and sleep: A systematic review of epidemiological studies and randomized controlled trials. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 31, 70-78. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2016.01.006
5. Drake, C., Roehrs, T., Shambroom, J., & Roth, T. (2013). Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed. Journal Of Clinical Sleep Medicine. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.3170
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7. Robillard, R., Bouchard, M., Cartier, A., Nicolau, L., & Carrier, J. (2015). Sleep is more sensitive to high doses of caffeine in the middle years of life. Journal Of Psychopharmacology, 29(6), 688-697. doi: 10.1177/0269881115575535
8. Roehrs, T., & Roth, T. (2008). Caffeine: Sleep and daytime sleepiness. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 12(2), 153-162. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2007.07.004
9. Temple, J., Bernard, C., Lipshultz, S., Czachor, J., Westphal, J., & Mestre, M. (2017). The Safety of Ingested Caffeine: A Comprehensive Review. Frontiers In Psychiatry, 8. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00080
10. Watson, E., Coates, A., Kohler, M., & Banks, S. (2016). Caffeine Consumption and Sleep Quality in Australian Adults. Nutrients, 8(8), 479. doi: 10.3390/nu8080479