We all have our weaknesses when it comes to caffeine, be it in the form of a cup of Twining’s English Breakfast Tea, a double-shot of Espresso or a piece of dark chocolate! In the US, 80% of adults consume caffeine on daily basis in one form or another. While caffeine has positive effects by stimulating our nervous system and kick-starting it into action, it’s also well known for its negative effects of addiction, heart disease, high blood pressure and dementia, according to WebMD.
Like any stimulant it, should be properly managed! So how much coffee is too much?
Experts estimate that anything in excess of four to seven cups of coffee or more each day is too much. In fact, according to researchers with the International Life Sciences Institute, whose study appeared in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, found that consuming around 400 mg or 4 cups of coffee was the safe limit.
The study also found that women that consume in excess of two caffeinated drinks a day are more likely to miscarry during the weeks leading up to conception.
Coffee has been linked to boosting brain function and increasing alertness hence our morning addiction. With caffeine suppressing melatonin, this is one way how coffee disrupts the normal sleep-wake cycle. Coffee isn’t a quick fix, it can take coffee up to 40 minutes to feel its impact but the stimulant effect stays in the body for up to several hours.
So if it takes in excess of 400mg to disturb our daily sleep patterns, one way to prevent sleeplessness it is to reduce our intake.
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For coffee lovers, that means 4 cups of coffee or 2 energy drinks for others.
Excessively consuming coffee can have negative adverse effects on the body:
- Acute toxicity
- Cardiovascular toxicity
- Bone and calcium effects
- Development and reproduction
- Behavioral effects
Now that we know what our safe limits are for consuming coffee, what is the safe time of consumption?
Researchers from the Sleep Disorders & Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital and Wayne State College of Medicine conducted a study to investigate how caffeine disrupts sleep when consumed at specific times during the day.
The results found that caffeine consumption at 0, 3, and 6 hours before bedtime had a significant impact on sleep disturbance.
So the finding implies, that the optimum cut-off time to stop drinking coffee so that your sleep isn’t affected is around 2 pm.
If you are a coffee lover, it’s advisable to limit your coffee intake to the morning hours and limit it to early afternoon at the very latest.
If you are seriously thinking of scaling back on your caffeine intake, here are three smart ways to help you achieve that:
- Use a smaller mug. If given a choice between regular, small or large, beat the temptation and opt for the smallest.
- Reduce it gradually. Start by reducing your weekly intake by half a cup of coffee. The following week, reduce to a full cup. Use attainable goals and be realistic since the withdrawal symptoms can be pretty intense.
- Track your caffeine intake. When it comes to losing weight, successors attest to calorie counting. Similarly, start tracking your caffeine intake. Stay informed, and learn how much caffeine is in the foods and drinks you eat. This guide from the FDA contains a handy caffeine content guide.
It’s not all bad news when it comes to controlled levels of caffeine. When used in moderation, studies show that it can lower the risk for several types of cancer. It also reduces the risk of other serious diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Caffeine has also been shown to lower the risk for depression and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease.
Like many people around the world, I love drinking coffee. Any coffee aficionado can attest to that first sip of the smooth and soothing aroma which indeed can be addictive but also comforting.
But I also love having a restful deep sleep. For coffee lovers, to enjoy both, we need to be aware of how much we can consume and the right time we need to consume it at. Take back control of your life and sleep and drink coffee responsibly.
Yes, the answer is you can still have coffee, however the key take away is to drink coffee in moderation. This helps you sleep more, and better!