Friday, April 4, 2014

So How Exactly Does Caffeine & Nicotine Affect Your Sleep

Nearly 90 percent of Americans consume caffeine every day. Morning lines in popular coffee shops, stops at quick service and fast food shops for giant size sodas, and the popularity of energy drinks all show that people are fueling up their bodies to receive that wakeful feeling. Unfortunately, they are creating a vicious cycle for themselves in which they consume caffeine because they feel tired, but they're unable to sleep because of the caffeine still in their systems. When nicotine enters the mix, caffeine users/smokers are even at higher risk for sleep impairment and troubles.

Substance Half-Life

A cup of coffee can be consumed in minutes, but did you know it can stay in your body for close to an entire day? Caffeine has a half-life of approximately six hours. So, a drink with 200 mg of caffeine consumed at noon will still have approximately 100 mg of caffeine in your system at 6 p.m. Nearing bedtime, traces (or more) of the caffeine will still be in your system, activating it, and preventing it from that deep sleep the body needs. Nicotine has a half-life of approximately 60 minutes.

Sleep Delay

Many people consume caffeine to stay awake or for aid in waking up in the morning. What they may not realize is that caffeine consumed at any time throughout the day (even early in the morning) can remain in your system long enough to disrupt sleep at night, even if it comes many hours later. Individual tolerance to caffeine ranges widely, but caffeine is known to cause insomnia, and when taken directly before bedtime, can delay sleep. Drinking caffeine or smoking cigarettes when you are tired may mean that although you feel exhausted and are ready to lie down to sleep, you may not be able to achieve that sleep immediately.

Sleep Disruptance

Even if taken early in the morning, caffeine can disrupt sleep late into the night. It can reduce the quality of sleep (sufferers wake up throughout the night, report not feeling as well rested, or aren't able to get a deep sleep). Regular and heavy caffeine users are not able to avoid these symptoms (they don't go away with a tolerance to caffeine). Nicotine users (whether they add caffeine to their habit or are just smoking) are four times more likely to experience sleep disruption, especially with the early stages of deep sleep.


Caffeine has been compared to amphetamines in the way it increases dopamine levels in the body. Dopamine, which activates pleasure centers in the brain, increases feelings of alertness and adrenaline, which takes the body out of a relaxed, ready-for-sleep mode. Nicotine is also a stimulant, so smoking directly before or close to bedtime wakes up the body and puts it on alert.


Withdrawal from both caffeine and smoking can be difficult. People will suffer from cravings, headaches, irritability and more. Ironically, although you may be quitting the substance(s) to regain your ability for restful, deep sleep, initially the withdrawal process may cause further sleep disturbance as the caffeine/nicotine works its way out of your system.

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