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What's the Latest Time You Can Drink Coffee Without It Ruining Your Sleep?

The clock strikes 3pm and you can hardly keep your eyes open. You’re sitting at your desk unable to concentrate and there’s only one question on your mind: should I reach for another cup of coffee?

On one hand, you know it’ll perk you up so you can make it through the rest of the (long) working day, but - and that’s a massive but - on the other hand, it could mean your sleep that night will be affected and you'll be restlessly lying awake for hours.

It’s a tough decision to make, so which one should you opt for? And how late is too late to have caffeine without it ruining your sleep?

Firstly, why does caffeine affect everyone differently?

We all know someone who can pound a double shot espresso at 5pm and be immune to its effects, as well as someone who stays jittery all day after a cappuccino at 10am. So, what’s the deal?

A quick Google search and you’ll realise coffee really does affect everyone differently - and it all comes down to your metabolic rate.

“What many of us don't realise is the fact that depending on our metabolic rate, coffee can take up to seven hours to leave our body,” Managing Director of Sleep for Health and In Essence Ambassador, Dr Carmel Harrington, tells Bed Threads Journal.

“Because this is a long time, most of us don't connect the coffee we had in the afternoon with the difficulty of getting to sleep at 10pm that night.”

You also need to take into consideration your caffeine tolerance - someone who drinks caffeine regularly will have a decreased sensitivity - meaning you won’t feel as much of an effect if you drink coffee later in the day.

How late is too late for coffee?

OK, but generally speaking, how late is too late for coffee?

If you find your cuppa is affecting your sleep, Dr Harrington strongly advises to quit caffeine by midday.

“If you want to get your sleep on track, quit the caffeine after midday and if you can’t come to terms with cutting out coffee after midday, try substituting it with the decaffeinated variety instead. This is especially important if you are in the over 35 age group because as we age, our metabolic rate slows so the coffee that didn't affect our sleep when we were younger could certainly be doing so now.”

What should you do if coffee is ruining your sleep?

If you’re finding you can’t get through the day without an afternoon coffee, you should prioritise making some changes to your nighttime routine and establish a solid sleep routine.

“One hour before bedtime, switch off technology, dim the lights in the room and reach for sleep-inducing essential oils like lavender oil or In Essence Sleep Blend,” Harrington says.

Other things you can try include taking a warm shower, reading a book, drinking herbal caffeine-free tea and pressing play on a calming playlist.

“This act of switching off allows our body to recognise when it’s time for sleep. Our brain responds so well to environmental stimulators, so when doing all these sleep-inducing rituals, our body gets ready to quiet down and enter the nurturing and nourishing phase.”

Dr Carmel Harrington is a sleep expert and ambassador for Australian aromatherapy brand In Essence.

Got the afternoon slumps? Here are 7 surprising tricks to wake up your body (that don't involve coffee).

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