What Time You Should Drink Your Morning Coffee, According to Your Sleep Chronotype
For some, this first hit of coffee may even be followed by one or two more before midday. For others, they might find it so hard to function before their caffeine dose that they ask people not to talk to them beforehand.
But is there a way to optimise on the benefits of caffeine by timing your morning coffee just right? Below, we explore the best time to drink your morning coffee, and how this might be affected by your sleep chronotype.
How long after you wake up should you have coffee?
A quick Google search on the best time to drink coffee will tell you that drinking it too soon after rising can actually decrease its energising effects. This is because your cortisol level (your stress hormone, which regulates your metabolism, immune system, responses and blood pressure) is at its peak during this time.
According to Healthline, it has been suggested that the best time to drink your morning cuppa is mid to late-morning when your cortisol level is lower.
“Ideally, you want to reserve coffee for when you most need it so when your energy levels are at their lowest,” sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo tells Bed Threads Journal. “Caffeine is a stimulant so it spikes, stimulating the hormones adrenaline and cortisol.”
“Second to that, caffeine is considered an adenosine blocker, which usually makes us feel sleepy,” Arezzolo continues.
Adenosine is directly linked to the digestion process, which gradually builds up in our bodies when we’re awake and makes us feel sleepy by the end of the day. It kicks in when the body runs out of fuel, signalling to the body to become drowsy.
Arezzolo continues: “If you’ve had quality rest and minimised sleep saboteurs prior to bed like blue light and devices, you should wake feeling alert and not need caffeine.”
Unfortunately, this is not the case for most people and waiting till mid to late-morning as suggested by Healthline is less than ideal.
But determining the ‘best’ time for your morning coffee may actually be a little more complicated than a specific set window of time; your sleep chronotype is what will give you a better approximation.
What is the best time to drink coffee in the morning, according to your sleep chronotype?
Chronotypes are based on specific circadian rhythms that define an individual’s levels of alertness and activity throughout the day.
Each person will fall into one of the three chronotypes: Lion, Bear and Wolf. (While it is commonly understood that there are four chronotypes, Arezzolo notes the Dolphin falls into the same category as the Wolf.)
Identifying your chronotype can help you better understand your body’s needs so you’re not fighting your body’s natural rhythm with a sleep schedule that doesn’t suit you (for example, a natural night owl trying to become an early bird).
When it comes to coffee, different chronotypes have different levels of caffeine sensitivity and metabolism speed. Here’s when you should drink your morning caffeine hit, according to your chronotype.
Lions are high-performing, ambitious and goal-directed individuals who love to rise early at around 5-6am, and sleep early at around 10pm.
Best time to have coffee: 11am
“They should drink their coffee late-morning around 11am. They’re naturally energised in the morning so they don’t need to add caffeine to stimulate them further however, it can assist in a bigger boost of energy.”
Bears are humble, hardworking and down-to-earth individuals. They’re relatively balanced and like to wake up around 7am and sleep around 11pm.
Best time to have coffee: 8.30am
“As they are less energetic in the morning than lions, they should opt for caffeine at 8:30am - just before work. It will enable the focus and concentration they need to start the day right.”
Wolves are fun loving, impulsive, creative and unconventional individuals. Because of this, they love to sleep late and wake late - bedtime is around 12am or later, and if they had a preference, they wouldn’t wake until around 8 or 9am.
Best time to have coffee: avoid it altogether
“Wolves should avoid coffee. They’re typically sleep-deprived, which can disrupt the HPA axis - the region of the brain that controls cortisol release. For this reason, if a wolf (or anyone sleep-deprived) has a coffee, they will release excessive amounts of cortisol and consequently feel wired, anxious and unable to switch off.”
According to Arezzolo, it might be best to avoid coffee altogether and instead opt for a cup of green or black tea.
“It provides you with a small amount of caffeine to stimulate you but is balanced with a compound called l-theanine, which helps lower cortisol levels so you don’t end up with the caffeine crash usually associated with coffee.”
Plus, did you know a morning coffee as early as 7am can still disrupt your sleep?
“Research shows just a few coffees at 7am - yes, first thing in the morning - reduces total sleep time and lowers sleep efficiency, so you spend more time awake through the night,” Arezzolo explains.
“Similar to that, a clinical trial noted caffeine even consumed six hours before bed can reduce sleep length by more than one hour, and double the time it takes to fall asleep.”
“Finally, research also indicates caffeine lowers melatonin levels, which compromises your ability to fall asleep with ease.”
So, regardless if you decide to drink your coffee first thing in the morning or wait until noon, it will affect your sleep either way.
The best way around this coffee dilemma? “Drink it only when you really, really need it.”
Olivia Arezzolo is a Sleep Expert who holds a Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology); Certificate of Sleep Psychology, Diploma of Health Science (Nutritional Medicine); and Certificate of Fitness III + IV. Sign up to her sleep e-course here and follow her on Instagram @oliviaarezzolo.
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