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How To Fall Asleep After Drinking Coffee: 6 Science-Based Tips

by Dale Cudmore | Updated: Mar 03, 2022

If you drink coffee close to bedtime, or drink too many cups during the day, it is going to affect your sleep negatively.

The caffeine in coffee is a powerful stimulant, there’s a reason caffeine is linked to insomnia, so there’s no instant fix for it.

However, there are a few things you can do to fall asleep easier after drinking coffee, which I’ll outline in this short guide.

In the future, the best thing you can do is only have a cup or two in the morning, because caffeine has a relatively long half-life, so it takes quite a while to get it out of your system.

Try Not To Worry About Getting Less Sleep

Sleep anxiety is one of the leading causes of insomnia.

The absolute worst thing you can do after drinking coffee is to start worrying about whether or not you’ll get to sleep or sleep well.

If you see these kinds of stressful thoughts popping up in your head, take a minute to examine them and:

  • Understand that one night of poor sleep is not the end of the world
  • Accept that caffeine will have some negative effect on your sleep, but it’s still possible to get a reasonable amount of sleep in most cases

Melatonin May Help You Get to Sleep

When it comes to an over-the-counter natural sleep aid that’s safe and relatively effective, melatonin is the best for most people by a large margin.

There’s a relatively large body of research that shows that melatonin can improve insomnia symptoms in many people.

It’s also pretty easy to find in most places (at drug stores or online).

One thing to be careful of is taking too much melatonin. It’s easy to think you need to take extra because you really want to fall asleep fast, but taking too much can actually make your sleep worse and cause you to be groggy the next day.

Take the recommended amount on the bottle, which is usually just 3-5 mg, and it will have the full effect.

Keep in mind that melatonin simply promotes sleepiness, but it’s not a cure-all for sleep problems.

Set Your Sleep Environment to a Slightly Lower Temperature

One of the ways that coffee can affect your sleep is by raising your body temperature.

One study found that caffeine raised body temperature within 2 hours of consuming it, and remained elevated for 3 hours (1).

To counteract this, set the temperature of your thermostat a degree or two cooler.

Most people sleep better when it’s cold, at a temperature between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit (about 16-19 Celsius).

Make Sure Your Sleep Hygiene is Near Perfect

In most cases, your sleep hygiene doesn’t need to be perfect to sleep well.

However, by drinking too much caffeine close to bedtime, you’ve already used up any mistakes you’re allowed. This means you need to do everything else right if possible.

See our complete guide to sleep hygiene for insomnia for more details, but this includes:

  • Limiting or avoiding blue light altogether
  • Avoiding any other substances that might interfere with sleep (i.e. alcohol)
  • Not doing stimulating activities
  • Sleeping in a dark, quiet room

Drink Some Water to Get Hydrated

Hydration is more important than many people think for sleep. In fact, dehydration is linked to insomnia.

And since coffee is a natural diuretic, it can make you less hydrated than you might think.

Ideally you should be drinking water throughout the day to stay hydrated, but having an extra cup of water after drinking coffee is not a bad idea.

At the same time, don’t drink so much water that you’ll wake up during the night to go to the bathroom.

Meditation Can Counteract Some Effects of Caffeine

Caffeine negatively affects sleep in many ways.

One of those ways is that caffeine keeps cortisol concentrations high (2). You might know cortisol as the “stress hormone”, which is known to impact sleep quality.

Studies have also shown that mindfulness meditation can lower cortisol levels (3).

So doing a session of meditation at some point after drinking coffee but before going to sleep can counteract at least this one aspect of caffeine.

References

  1. Comparison of Changes in Energy Expenditure and Body Temperatures after Caffeine Consumption
  2. Caffeinated Coffee Does Not Acutely Affect Energy Intake, Appetite, or Inflammation but Prevents Serum Cortisol Concentrations from Falling in Healthy Men
  3. Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Serum Cortisol of Medical Students

Medical Disclaimer: The information on SnoozeUniversity.com is not intended to be a substitute for physician or other qualified care. We simply aim to inform people struggling with sleep issues about the nature of their condition and/or prescribed treatment.


About the authorDale is the founder of Snooze University and a sleep researcher. I overcame my sleep issues and now I'd like to help you do the same by summarizing the latest sleep studies for you.