Lauren is a board-certified adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner. Lauren has done NP clinical practicums focusing on the adolescent, adult, and geriatric populations in internal medicine, long-term care, and in outpatient oncology/bone marrow transplant. Lauren received a BA from Assumption University, a BSN from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and her MS in Nursing from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. She is certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
Medically reviewed by Lauren Castiello, MS, AGNP-C

You usually rely on a fresh cup of coffee in the morning to get you through the day ahead without feeling burned out. Some nights, however, whether you’re cramming for a final or putting the 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 past 3 p.m. can hurt 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’ll tell you how to fall asleep after drinking coffee.

How Caffeine Affects Our Body

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.

1.) Turn Off Your Electronics

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.

2.) Practice Meditation Or Light Yoga

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, breathe 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 stretches out your muscles. Here are a few gentle poses that are perfect for winding down at night after coffee:

  • Child’s pose – A meditative pose that relieves tension in your back, neck, and shoulders.
  • Low Lunge – A great stretch for people who sit down in an office chair for most of their day. It relieves tension in your hip flexors and stretches your hamstrings, glutes and groin region.
  • Seated Side Stretch — A simple seated pose that’s easy to do but is incredibly beneficial for your body and muscles. You work on stretching your obliques while strengthening your core and spine.
  • Butterfly Pose — Another meditative movement that promotes mindfulness and relaxation as you gently stretch your inner thighs and lower back.
  • Corpse Pose — Whatever stretches you choose to do, make sure this one’s always incorporated in your routine and is the last one you do. It completely relaxes your mind and helps your body generate serotonin, a natural chemical in your body that’s meant to evoke feelings of happiness and relaxation.

3.) Take A Brief Walk

Harvard Medical School 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., 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.

4.) Read A Book In Bed

Reading a book is an ideal way to de-stimulate the mind, reduce stress, and induce tired eyes. Researchers from the University of Sussex found that reading a book for only 6 minutes a night can reduce stress up to 68%, so it’s certainly worth trying when you’re attempting 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.

Other Ways to Fall Asleep After Drinking Coffee 

  • Take a bath: Studies have shown that warm baths (and even warm showers) can help you relax enough to fall asleep more easily. The study concluded that taking a bath in water that’s 104°F to 109°F about 90 minutes before bedtime can help you fall asleep up to 10 minutes quicker. While that may not sound like a huge amount of time, any little bit can help.
  • Use essential oils: Some research has been done on essential oils and their efficacy in helping you sleep. Lavender is the most common essential oil, and studies have shown that it can, indeed, improve your quality of sleep. An effective way of using it is in a diffuser in your room. Other popular essential oils for sleep are chamomile and frankincense. Experts at the Mayo Clinic even recommend mandarin essential oil.
  • Don’t eat too close to bedtime: When you eat, your digestive system has to work to digest the food. If you eat too close to bedtime, your muscles are all working hard to keep that food moving, making it harder for your body to relax and sleep. Instead, eat earlier in the day so that your digestive system doesn’t have to be so active.
  • Adjust the temperature: Your body will generally have an easier time sleeping if your bedroom is the right temperature. If it’s too warm, you’ll have a harder time sleeping. Studies have shown that a temperature of about 60ºF to 67ºF is ideal for sleeping.
  • Put on relaxing music: Relaxing music can greatly improve your quality of sleep. If you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, try putting on some relaxing tunes at a low volume. Studies have proven the efficacy of music therapy in aiding sleep.