What Are the Side Effects of Too Much Caffeine on Sleep?

In a highly caffeinated world, it’s easy to get too much in your system. For those who are in recovery, caffeinated drinks can also turn into your social beverage of choice.

Too much caffeine can be hard on your attention span, your gut, and your ability to sleep. Each of us has adenosine receptors in our nervous system. When your nervous system is loaded with adenosine, activity between these receptors slows down and the brain drifts toward sleep. If you use caffeine to wake yourself up in the morning, you’re actually filling those receptors with another product, which blocks adenosine from quieting your brain.

When Caffeine Gets In The Way

Early morning caffeine gets your brain firing on more cylinders. Caffeine also triggers smooth muscle contractions, which may help you avoid constipation. Too much caffeine at any time can lead to agitation; if you are at all prone to suffering negative or anxious thoughts, more of them will roll on by with caffeine in your body.

Caffeine stays in your body for about 6 hours after you enjoy a caffeinated beverage. You can build up a tolerance to it; because caffeine dilates the blood vessels, not having caffeine can result in a nasty headache. For many coffee drinkers, it can take a lot of coffee to get a true caffeine rush anymore. However, many caffeine users actually get a strong caffeine rush from tea. If you’re struggling to shut down your brain at night and actually sleep deeply, a cup of herbal tea before bed may help, but make sure it is completely decaffeinated or the buzz may be more intense than you expected.

Coffee can be deceptive. While it makes sense that a rich, dark roast with lots of flavor would have the highest level of caffeine, the mildest roasts actually pack a more powerful punch. Teas are similar; it would seem that the mild-flavored white tea would be calming, but this tea can actually have more of a caffeine punch than green or black teas.

Another challenge for those struggling to sleep is the amount of sugar in many caffeinated beverages. A fancy sweet coffee drink could easily replace dessert after a good meal, but you will have even more of a struggle falling asleep because the sugar agitates your nervous system as caffeine speeds up neural transmitter activity.

Many working through detox and treatment have tough memories and difficult feelings to contend with. There are many addictive substances that damage or alter your brain chemistry. If your adenosine receptors are slow to come back online after detox, loading up on coffee can actually delay your healing. If you need it to wake up and feel remotely normal, do so. Be aware that using caffeine as a mood booster is not an effective long-term plan.

Your gut in particular needs a break from toxins. Too much caffeine can increase your risk of reflux, which can cause coughing and throat irritation. Waking up coughing is a terrible way to have your sleep disturbed. To clear away toxins from your brain, you actually need to be able to fall into the deepest level of sleep. If you’re struggling to drop off, or if your brain already has a hard time shutting down at the end of the day, try cutting off caffeine at lunchtime to allow your body time to shed it.

Switch to water. If you need something hot, try herbal tea. Fans of real coffee often find decaf to be unpleasant; don’t settle unless you’ve got to have the scent and flavor of some type of coffee. Detox is a dangerous time. Even as you move into rehab, your physical symptoms can be pretty rough. Going without coffee will just be piling a caffeine headache on top of your current physical misery. If you drank coffee to start the day, keep doing it. Just shut down the coffee by 2 in the afternoon.

Keep an eye on your sleep hygiene. Your sleeping space needs to be dark, cool, and comfortable. The deepest layers of sleep require your core body temp to drop, so if you can tolerate blankets, try to snuggle in and sleep cool. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day. Call 833-820-2922.