Caffeine vs. Sleep

You didn’t get enough sleep last night, but that’s okay — you can just grab a cup of coffee. Right? Maybe not.

Whether it’s from tossing and turning all night or staying up late because of work or sick children, waking up feeling like you haven’t slept at all can have you stumbling to the coffeemaker for a quick fix. After all, caffeine is a stimulant, and a boost will have you feeling ready to face the day, so it doesn’t matter if you slept, right?

Not true, unfortunately. Healthy sleep provides far more benefits for your system than simply allowing you to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to face the day — benefits that caffeine simply can’t replicate.

The Benefits of Healthy Sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, quality, healthful sleep doesn’t just affect your alertness or mood. It affects every bit of your body, down to the molecular level. Hormone changes occur when you become sleep deprived, and those changes can put you at increased risk for chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease and certain infections.

When you have a restful night’s sleep, your body goes through four or five sleep cycles of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and deep sleep. Undergoing these sleep cycles allows your body to restore your energy, improves your memory, and can even help you learn things or process information more effectively.

The Effects of Caffeine

Caffeine changes the way your body works — it stimulates your nervous system and helps you feel more awake and alert for a certain amount of time. However, it can also make it difficult for you to fall asleep or sleep restfully, something that, if you’re depending on a caffeine boost in the morning, you probably need. When enough caffeine is consumed, some people begin to show symptoms of a physical dependence, which has further a negative impact on their sleep cycle.

Moderate amounts of caffeine aren’t necessarily harmful. It’s when you begin to depend on it to get you out of bed every morning or stay awake throughout the day that you should consider the effect it has on your sleep quality and perhaps consider going to bed half an hour earlier or taking a short nap instead.

Having sleep issues? Visit THPG.org to find a doctor who can help.

Physicians employed by Texas Health Physicians Group practice independently and are not employees of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.

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