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  • Tracy is knowledge, kind, warm and we clicked immediately. She helped me dealing with insomnia during a tough period of my life. For me, most importantly was the reassurance, which... read more

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  • Tracy is truly amazing and so easy to start sleeping. I had been taking pills every night for 15 years or more and the pills always stopped working. ... read more

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Why Cutting Out Coffee Won’t Magically Cure Insomnia

You may have been told that quitting coffee will fix your insomnia…..as if it was that simple (!)

Although it is true that coffee, with its wakefulness-promoting effects, can even keep me (and anyone) up if I happen to have some too late in the day.  The half life of coffee is up to 5 or 6 hours for most, and even longer if you are a slow metaboliser – but the impact of a standard dose at a given half life on how awake it might keep you is wakefulness is based on a lot of variables.

So yes, it can keep you up.

Being awake due to coffee consumption is not the same as insomnia.

Many of us start our day with a steaming cup of coffee. But before we rush to join the decaf bandwagon, let us explore what makes coffee a common suspect in sleepless nights – but not the cause of insomnia.

Sleep: A Balancing Act

Sleep is not just a game of shut eye or not. It’s a ballet involving hormones, habits, and a delicate balancing act between the physical urge to sleep and various arousals, both physical and mental.

Even if you drink coffee night after night and are awake for days, you may not actually have ‘insomnia’. The reason lies in the distinction between mere wakefulness and the complex psychobiological phenomenon of insomnia.

Understanding Hyperarousal

Insomnia is like a jigsaw puzzle, comprised of numerous pieces. But – the piece you’re intently focused on finding might not complete the picture.  Coffee late in the day is one possible piece – but if you cut that out and still can’t sleep, then the coffee wasn’t the culprit.  The most common cause of longer term insomnia is likely playing a key role.

Hyperarousal lies at the heart of insomnia – a psychobiological condition that can plague even those who drink zero coffee and eat or drink absolutely nothing with caffeine in it.

External threats are easy to recognize: stressful events, exciting events, exciting lions… Our survival instinct prevents us from sleeping when we feel threatened so we can tackle the task at hand.

Internal threats are harder to see, though.  We think ‘there is no reason for me to not sleep’ – when we have accidentally created the reason inside ourselves.

This self-induced arousal lives within us, fueled by the fear of not sleeping. The vicious cycle commences: fear triggers arousal, making sleep elusive, which then breeds more anxiety about not sleeping.  And around we go…

Cutting out coffee won’t fix your insomnia

Eliminating coffee doesn’t address this, does it?

In fact, giving up coffee – if you really love it – could inadvertently worsen the problem. Organizing your life around sleeplessness only empowers it further, reinforcing the idea that not sleeping is a threat so severe that you’re changing your life to avoid it.

The Verdict?

If you find yourself battling persistent insomnia and your coffee intake is limited to early to mid mornings, it is highly unlikely that coffee is the culprit. Do not deprive yourself of the things you love in the idea this might ‘protect’ your sleep.  Sleeplessness doesn’t deserve this power over you, so don’t give it away.

 

 

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this post are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this post. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this post. Tracy Hannigan disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this post.