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What is Caffeine and How Does it Affect Our Ability to Have a Good Night's Sleep?

What is caffeine and how does it affect our ability to sleep well?

Did you know that if you drink tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate or soft drinks, you will give 'caffeine hit' every time you eat it. Caffeine is one of the most widely used psychoactive stimulants or drugs used in the world today. So with 80% of people around the world drinking coffee every day, it's no surprise that sleep disorders and insomnia are rising quickly and are a major health concern.

Where did it all start?

It has been documented that since the time of the Stone Age humans have consumed caffeine in one form or another. Stone Age people find that chewing on certain seeds, leaves or bark of plants has a stimulating effect on them and reduces their fatigue. Once discovered, if the plant is cooked with hot water the effects of caffeine increase and your hot caffeinated beverage is born.

What is caffeine?

Chemically, pure caffeine is a plant-based alkaloid that stimulates our central nervous system when swallowed. Chemical caffeine is found in more than 60 plants in its leaves, seeds and fruits. But where are the easy-to-buy foods and drinks we buy from any store?

Caffeine is found in many hot and cold beverages as well as in chocolate, dairy products and medicines. Of course we all know that one of the easiest ways to get a caffeine hit is with a cup of coffee. The amount of caffeine in the coffee, although coffee purchased from the same coffee house can change even on the same day. This is because the baking method and style of baking can affect the amount of caffeine in each cup. The lighter the beans the more the caffeine is contained in them.

What is caffeine in it?

In 16oz Starbucks coffee you will get about 330mg of caffeine. This is more than the American National Institute of Health considered average or moderate daily caffeine intake (i.e. about 250mg of caffeine or three cups of 8oz coffee). The US National Institute of Health estimates ten 8oz cups of coffee a day is considered excessive daily caffeine intake. With this in mind, we all need to ask: How much caffeine do I take each day?

The list of products that include caffeine doesn't stop there: soda and energy drinks also have a lot of caffeine in it. One standard can Red Bull have 80mg of caffeine and 12oz Pepsi One has 55mg of caffeine. The list continues to grow with the caffeine found in everything from latte-flavored yogurts and existing coffee milk drinks, chocolates, tea, ice cream and painkillers and diet pills and research pills.

Over the past few years, different manufacturers have started putting caffeine into bath products. These products include shampoo and soap; and studies have found that your body begins to absorb caffeine through the skin after about 2 minutes of use. This is mainly done through your hair follicles and caffeine then reaches your bloodstream.

How caffeine affects us.

Looking at this vast list of products, it's easy to see how caffeine exists in our modern society, but how does caffeine affect us? Caffeine is very similar to the chemical structure of Adenosine that occurs naturally in our body. Adenosine is a chemical that builds up slowly throughout the day and tells our body that it's time to sleep. Caffeine inhibits the concentration of Adenosine chemically and by doing so our bodies are deceived into thinking we do not need to sleep.

To make matters worse our body quickly builds caffeine tolerance so that the more you drink the more it feels the same. Research has shown complete tolerance to any side effects developed after taking 400mg of caffeine 3 times daily for 7 days. This means that you are consuming large amounts of caffeine and your body will experience all the harmful effects but no stimulating effects. Therefore, for you to feel the same buzz you need to increase your caffeine intake. Isn't it shocking?

Caffeine from coffee and other drinks is absorbed by your stomach and intestines within about 45 minutes of drinking and the effect is immediate. The good news is that your body does not hold or maintain any caffeine in your system for long periods of time. You pass completely through your pores and urine. Caffeine has a half-life of three to four hours, half the life it takes to get rid of caffeine in your body by one-half. For example if you drink Starbucks 16oz (330mg) coffee at 6pm and then sleep at 10pm that night you still have about 165mg of caffeine in your system that prevents you from having a good night's sleep.

Does your caffeine intake affect your sleep?

If you find that you have trouble sleeping at night, you may want to reduce your daily caffeine intake. Caffeine is addictive and leads to withdrawal symptoms when you stop eating it. Symptoms of withdrawal are from moderate headache, irritation, drowsiness and fatigue when you stop taking caffeine products. It is suggested that you reduce the amount by slowly cutting back on the time period. The healthiest step in coffee is green tea. Green tea still has caffeine in it only in smaller amounts, and is healthier for you.

When you stop taking your caffeine, you need to allow time for your body to form its lost sleep. You may find that you need more sleep and you sleep better. At this point it's a good idea to give your body the time it takes to adapt to the situation. By doing this, you will sleep better and feel healthier in the long run.



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