As with many foods, determining whether coffee is beneficial or harmful depends on a number of factors, such as its quality, individual sensitivity, the amount consumed, the method of preparation chosen and even the time of day at which it is consumed.
It should be noted that the stimulating effects of coffee are not constant; they can vary in intensity depending on what time of day the beverage is consumed.
But here’s exciting news: there are not just one, but two specific periods when coffee exerts its most powerful influence as a brain stimulant. This revelation will surely delight coffee enthusiasts keen to maximise their caffeine experience.
Caffeine, a natural stimulant
Caffeine is a natural stimulant that does not directly provide energy to our bodies. Instead, it suppresses signs of fatigue, allowing us to remain more alert and active.
However, it is essential to be aware of our sensitivity to caffeine. If we are sensitive to its effects, limiting its consumption or choosing the time of day we consume it is advisable.
In addition, there is the possibility of developing caffeine dependence. This means being dependent on it to function properly or feeling the need to drink several cups of coffee in short periods of time.
Although caffeine can be beneficial in combating fatigue and improving performance, it is important to exercise caution when consuming caffeine during periods of prolonged stress. Excessive caffeine consumption may stimulate adrenaline production, so moderation is necessary to avoid adverse effects.
What time should you drink coffee to enjoy its effects?
Coffee lovers often believe any time is a good time to have coffee. However, there are specific periods when coffee reaches its full potential.
It is common sense to avoid drinking coffee before bedtime to avoid interference with sleep. But interestingly, the start of the day may not be the optimal time for coffee’s effects.
When we wake up, our body naturally produces cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress and low blood glucocorticoid levels. This hormone prepares us for the demands of the day. Consequently, the effects of caffeine are less noticeable in the morning when cortisol levels are already high.
Mid-morning becomes an ideal time for coffee lovers because cortisol levels have already dropped by then. For two to three hours after waking up, coffee is most effective in keeping us alert and active.
There are other cortisol peaks throughout the day, such as between 12:00 and 13:30 in the afternoon and between 17:30 and 18:30 in the evening. Then, from 13:30 to 17:00, cortisol levels are not as high, so after-meal coffee is a common choice.
To respect your natural cycles, the best times to consume coffee are between 9:30 and 11:30 in the morning and from 13:30 to 17:00 in the afternoon when cortisol levels are not elevated. By understanding these guidelines, you can enjoy coffee and maximise its effects.
What time should we stop drinking coffee so it doesn’t interfere with our sleep?
It is important to set a time limit to prevent coffee from interfering with our sleep. Caffeine, a psychoactive substance, can delay sleep by up to 40 minutes, especially when consumed at night.
The recommended cut-off time for consuming caffeine before bedtime is typically a minimum of eight hours. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), it is advised to avoid caffeine after 2 p.m. if your usual bedtime is around 10 p.m.
This practice can help reduce the likelihood of experiencing sleep-related issues. If you’re facing challenges with sleep, it can be beneficial to monitor the timing of your caffeine intake and observe its impact on your sleep quality.
You might discover that extending the period of caffeine abstinence before bed, such as 10 hours or more, leads to improved sleep.
The exact time depends on two factors:
- Firstly, the length of time caffeine remains in the body is approximately 10 hours. However, individual tolerance varies, and some people may find it difficult to fall asleep even after consuming just one cup, while others can sleep without interruption after drinking 3 or 4 cups.
- Secondly, it is essential to consider our usual bedtime. To ensure a restful sleep, avoiding drinking coffee after 3 p.m. is recommended if you plan to go to bed at 11 p.m. Drinking coffee after this time can reduce the sleep duration by up to an hour.
Considering these factors, we can set an appropriate cut-off time for coffee consumption and maintain a healthy sleep routine.