Caffeine and Insomnia – How does Caffeine Affect the Way you Sleep

Whether you know it or not, caffeine is a colorless and flavorless addictive drug that is found in many of the foods and drinks that we all consume. It is also found in a number of medicines, where it is useful as a cardiac stimulant and also as a mild diuretic to increase urine production. Foods and drinks such as coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa and colas all contain caffeine, which can affect the way you sleep as well as being the cause of insomnia and sleep deprivation.

More commonly, caffeine can provide a boost of energy or heightened alertness and is often used to stay awake longer. People from all walks of life use it to stay awake late into the night, while others feel as though they cannot function properly without a cup of coffee first thing in the morning.

As well as being an addictive drug, caffeine stimulates the brain in much the same way as amphetamines, cocaine, and heroin. Although the overall effects of caffeine are somewhat milder than these other drugs, it is nevertheless still manipulating the same brain channels which gives caffeine its addictive qualities. If you are one of those people that feel like you cannot function without coffee or other caffeine based stimulants, then you are addicted.

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Caffeine and Sleep Disorders

Caffeine consumption has been linked to many types of sleep disorder, including insomnia, due to it’s physiological effects. Insomnia is a condition when you have difficulty sleeping or cannot get off to sleep at all. Although insomnia symptoms normally only last a few nights, some sufferers have had the symptoms last for many months or even years in extreme cases.

Although insomnia can be caused by many other factors such as psychiatric problems, stress, drugs or alcohol, lack of exercise, excessive noise or light, and certain physical illnesses, it has been found that caffeine consumption is the most common cause of this sleep disorder.

If your sleep has been disturbed for more than a few weeks and interferes with your ability to function normally during the day, you should in the first instance consult your doctor.

Caffeine Effects on Sleep Stages

Caffeine is known to directly affect kidney functions and can also be the cause of kidney and/or urinary track infections. These infections may also interrupt normal sleep cycle or cause difficulty sleeping. You may also have to get up several times in the night to relieve your bladder which will cause interruption to your REM sleep cycle which will in turn will make you feel tired when you get up in the morning. The ultimate cure for this problem is to either cut down or cut out your caffeine intake. Since caffeine does nothing for the flavour of coffee or other beverages, try switching to decaffeinated versions. It is also worthwhile drinking a glass of water before going to sleep at night in order to flush out your kidneys.

Although giving up caffeine altogether is by far the best option, if you are already addicted to it, there are ways of making it work in your favour rather than against you. For some caffeine addicts, drinking a cup of coffee about an hour before going to bed actually mellows out their system, thus helping them get to sleep. However, it should be pointed out that this only works for people whose body has become dependent on caffeine and needs it to function, even in sleep.

If all else fails and you suspect that caffeine is still causing you problems when trying to sleep, you could try over the counter sleeping pills or even something as simple as warm milk. Sleeping pills have chemicals that make your body start to sleep, and they can overpower caffeine and most other causes of sleeping disorders. Warm milk on the other hand has lactic acid in it, which releases a chemical when warmed that triggers a natural sleep cycle. A baby will go to sleep right after you have fed it with warm milk, and the same principle applies to adults as well.

The scientific world is divided on whether caffeine causes sleeping disorders, and it maybe that they will never know for sure. However, only you know what your body does and if you pay close attention to what it is telling you, it will let you what it needs. After that, it is up to you to deliver those needs – caffeine or not.