Sleep may be the cousin of death, but it’s more like that cool cousin that would buy you beer when you were underage, not like that other very uncool cousin that would tell on your for drinking beer when you were underage. Sleep is cool is all I’m saying. I’d hang out with sleep if I was, you know, awake to, but we just seem to keep missing each other. And in good and somewhat surprising news for coffee drinkers, a new study finds that having caffeine before bed does not affect sleep quality.
As reported by the Independent, researchers from Florida Atlantic University and Harvard Medical School monitored 785 people for a sum total of 5,164 days and nights to see how consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine affected sleep. Published in Sleep, the researchers led by FAU’s Dr. Christine Spadola compared individuals’ consumption of these substances and compared them to data from sleep diaries and wrist sensors participants wore that records sleep duration, efficiency, and how quickly they would re-awaken.
They found that caffeine ingested within four hours of bedtime had no observable association with the sleep factors measured by the wrist sensors. Nicotine, on the other hand, had the greatest association with sleep disruption—particularly amongst participants with insomnia—leading to an average of 42.47 minutes in reduced sleep duration. Though not as drastic as nicotine, researchers also found alcohol consumption before bed to be associated with a decreased sleep efficiency.
Though ostensibly counterintuitive, the Independent notes that these findings are in line with previous studies on the subject. One sleep expert, Dr. Neil Stanley, told the Independent that “the idea that drinking coffee before bed will keep you awake at night is a myth.” Dr. Stanley does note, however, that individual results may vary based upon each individual’s sensitivity to caffeine. But for those with a lower sensitivity, caffeine before bed shouldn’t be an issue.
If you have been drinking two strong black cups of coffee every evening for the past 40 years and you have just developed a sleeping problem, then it is almost certainly not the coffee.
So as far as late-night vices go, drinking coffee remains the best for you. Unless you consider sleep a vice, in which case, second best. That’s still pretty good.
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