How long does coffee keep you awake for?

If, like us, you just can’t get going in the morning then you’re not alone. The UK, formerly known globally as a nation of tea drinkers, have switched our allegiance to coffee. We drink around 90 million cups a day. The majority of us drink most of our coffee in the morning, but we also like it after meals and some of us drink it well into the evening.

How does caffeine work?

As we all know, the ‘active’ ingredient in coffee is the stimulant caffeine. This has a half-life of around four to six hours, which means that after that period you’ll have processed around half of the caffeine you drank. The best-known property of caffeine is that it makes us feel more alert, so if you drink a cup of strong coffee at 11pm, it will still be in your system at 5am. This could affect sleep patterns. If you drink coffee late in the evening, it might even make you feel more tired than usual the next day. Caffeine works by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine is the chemical which causes sleepiness, so blocking it helps you feel more alert. The adenosine builds up as the caffeine wears off, so you may get hit with a big dose in the morning.

When to drink coffee

If you have trouble sleeping, then it’s best to have your final coffee of the day after lunch so that your body has time to process it before bedtime. Alternatively, you could try switching to decaff in the afternoon.
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