You usually rely on a fresh cup of coffee in the morning to get you through the day ahead of you without feeling burned-out. Some nights, however, whether you’re cramming for a final or putting finishing touches on an important presentation, you reach for even more caffeine to give you an extra boost of energy. While this might seem like a good idea at first, in hindsight, coffee passed 3 p.m. can have a negative impact on your quality of sleep. And there’s a good chance you’ve already come to this realization, because you’re now struggling to doze off after your late night coffee fix — but don’t fret, we’re here to help.
You know you feel refreshed and energized after a hot cup of joe, but why? How can a few ground up beans from a plant give you such a rush of energy? Our bodies naturally produce adenosine, a sleep inducing chemical that makes us feel fatigued and sleepy. When caffeine enters the system, it blocks the adenosine from entering our brain, which causes us to feel stimulated and awake.
Obviously, this internal bodily process is counterproductive when we eventually want some shut eye after a late night cup of coffee. Especially when you consider the results from one study that claims the half life of coffee is about 5.7 hours — meaning it takes about 5 ½ hours for just half of the caffeine in your system to dissipate. With that being said, it’s still possible to fall asleep after you consume caffeine. Here are a few ways to kick-start your body’s sleep mode.
Caffeine is a stimulant for your brain, and so are the constant buzzes or beeps from your phone’s email, social media, and text message notifications. They prevent your brain from entering a relaxed state, which is key when you’re trying to fall asleep at night– with or without caffeine. Since getting sleep after a cup of coffee or two is already an uphill battle, make it easier on yourself by shutting off your electronics.
Additionally, the blue light that emanates from common electronics like your cell phone, laptop, or television can make it more difficult to fall asleep. The light can halt your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone in charge of your sleep-wake cycle. It can also throw off your internal alarm clock (a.k.a. circadian rhythm) which relies heavily on light and darkness, making it hard for your body to recognize when it should start winding down for bed. So make sure to turn off all electronics, and keep your phone away from your bedside table.
Like we mentioned earlier, when you’re trying to fall asleep after consuming caffeine, the goal is to make your body and mind feel as tranquil as possible. One of the best proven ways to calm the mind is through meditation — the practice of mindfulness or focused, intentional thought to achieve a state of deep relaxation.
When you’re looking to meditate, sit or lay down in a comfortable position and take deep, but unforced breaths. In other words, breath as you normally would, not like you would if you had a master yogi in front of you counting your breaths. As you inhale and exhale, focus on your breathing and body movement. After several minutes of doing so, you should start to feel relaxed, and hopefully — fingers crossed — a little sleepy.
Light yoga is a great way to relax both your body and mind, since it encourages you to practice mindfulness and also stretches out your muscles. Here are a few gentle poses that are perfect for winding down at night after coffee:
The National Sleep Foundation claims that light exercise is one of the best ways to make yourself feel tired. We aren’t suggesting you go on a 2-mile run at 10 p.m. at night, but take a light walk around the block (as long as it’s not too late in the evening). Walks can be a good way to wind your mind and body down before bed, and hopefully it’ll force some of that extra caffeine energy out of your system.
Reading a book is an ideal way to de-stimulate the mind, reduce stress, and induce tired eyes. Research has shown that reading a book for only 6 minutes a night can reduce stress up to 68%, so it’s certainly worth a try when you’re trying to fall asleep at night. It can also contribute to sleepy, heavy feeling eyes due to their constant left to right movement when you’re reading words on a page.