A bane and delight for coffee lovers, caffeine is a substance with many beneficial properties for the body that can, however, have a negative impact on sleep quality. In fact, the best known and most exploited effects of caffeine are its energising effects, which, on the other hand, can impede the proper sleep-wake cycle.
But how do you manage caffeine intake correctly? How much coffee can one consume per day to sleep well?
In order to consume coffee mindlessly, it is essential to know what caffeine is and how it interacts with our body. In this article we will delve into everything you need to know about this valuable plant alkaloid and what its functions are.
Meanwhile, you should know that moderate caffeine consumption does not affect sleep quality. On the contrary, those of us who know coffee can state with certainty and based on numerous scientific studies that caffeine has several benefits for the body: it stimulates memory, improves sports performance, gives energy, and has a positive effect on mood.
What is caffeine
Known for its energising and stimulating properties, caffeine is a natural alkaloid found in coffee, cocoa and tea plants.
In the coffee plant, it is one of the most present molecules and, in nature, has a very specific function: it drives herbivorous animals away from the plant.
Its energising and protective properties are activated even when small quantities are ingested. For this reason, the substance is effective even in small doses, both in plant protection and on the human organism.
Its effects on the human body are due to its special molecular structure, which is capable of stimulating receptors in the central nervous system.
As we have seen, it is extracted from certain plants in particular, but there are many drinks on the market with caffeine added. In small doses, caffeine has several beneficial properties. Given its ability to interact quickly and intensely with the body, however, it is essential to be aware of its effects and not to abuse it, in order to avoid unpleasant adverse consequences.
Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, and it seems that over 80% of the world’s population consumes caffeine on a daily basis. In general, the limit not to be exceeded is set at 300 milligrams per day.
What caffeine actually does
Caffeine is a lipophilic molecule that interacts quickly with the body.
When a caffeine drink is consumed, be it coffee, tea, chocolate, or an energy drink, it starts to take effect in just twenty minutes. Its absorption takes place in the intestine, from which it quickly reaches the blood. Through the bloodstream it reaches the liver, where it is metabolised.
The effects of caffeine, both positive and negative, are felt within sixty minutes of consumption.
What does caffeine do to our bodies? What is its stimulating effect due to?
The peculiar molecular structure of caffeine allows it to easily penetrate through the blood-brain barrier, from where it reaches the neurons.
In the brain it replaces adenosine, the neurotransmitter that regulates the feeling of tiredness, and blocks its action. As a result, when drinking coffee, the body does not feel sleepy or want to rest.
In addition to inhibiting the regular activity of receptors deputed to relaxation, it stimulates the production of adrenalin and noradrenalin in the blood. The effects of this mechanism are well known: you feel increased arousal, you do not feel tired, your concentration increases, your pulse quickens and your blood pressure rises.
The concentration of caffeine changes depending on how the coffee is prepared
In many cases, it is recommended not to exceed three cups of coffee a day in order to limit the percentage of caffeine in the body. However, this is too general and in no way corresponds to reality.
The concentration of caffeine in coffee is not the same for every type of coffee but varies mainly according to the method of preparation, quantity and quality of powder used.
In particular, unfiltered coffee, cuccumella (the typical coffee machine of Naples), traditional mocha and the gravimetric percolation extraction method have a higher caffeine content; espresso has a medium content; soluble coffee has the lowest caffeine level.
The roasting of coffee strongly influences the caffeine concentration. During the roasting process, different coffee varieties are mixed, each with its own caffeine percentage. Coffea robusta beans are the most concentrated, while coffea arabica is more intense.
Benefits of caffeine
The beneficial effects of caffeine are extolled by all lovers of espresso and energy drinks and relate to increased energy, improved brain activity and increased alertness. These results are real and also medically confirmed, especially for healthy individuals who are not taking drugs incompatible with the molecule.
What effects does caffeine have on our bodies?
The benefits of caffeine are not limited to those mentioned above, but are truly multiple:
- thanks to its antioxidant properties, it reduces the risks of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease;
- it is a stimulant for the brain, strengthening memory and improving concentration;
- gives energy and a powerful feeling of well-being;
- helps with slimming diets as it stimulates the metabolism
- improves sports performance
- relieves tiredness and the need to rest
- stimulates the basal metabolic rate;
- ● promotes sociability and puts you in a good mood;
- promotes diuresis.
It goes without saying that to fully enjoy the benefits of caffeine, it is important not to exceed the dosage recommended by your doctor.
Duration of the effect of caffeine
If you are curious to know how long after caffeine takes effect and how long it will make you feel fit, then you are satisfied.
You have to wait about half an hour from coffee consumption to its effect on the body, as caffeine enters the bloodstream within 25 to 30 minutes after consumption.
Its energising effect is felt for at least two to three hours, after which it drops off dramatically. The sharp drop depends on the action of the liver, which is responsible for metabolising caffeine. In addition, while the body benefits from the stimulating effect of the substance, the body begins to accumulate adenosine again, increasing the need for rest.
It should, however, be borne in mind that several hours are required for caffeine to be cleared from the bloodstream. Consider that it takes six to eight hours to reduce it by 50%.
Another interesting phenomenon is the accumulation effect, i.e., it does not matter at what time you last drank your coffee but how much of it you consumed during the day. It is precisely the overall consumption of coffee that determines the amount of caffeine in your system and the duration of the caffeine effect. These notions are especially important for the impact on sleep.
Negative effects of caffeine
Despite its indisputable beneficial effects, caffeine is certainly not without its contraindications, which are:
- risk of hypertension;
- difficulty falling asleeping;
- alteration in the metabolism of certain foods;
- alteration in the metabolism of specific drugs;
- stomach acidity, gastro-oesophageal reflux, gastritis, ulcer;
- tremor and agitation.
During pregnancy, coffee consumption should be absolutely limited; to avoid harmful effects on the organism, coffee should not be consumed together with alcohol.
Relationship between caffeine and sleep
One of caffeine’s benefits, its stimulating properties, might interfere with certain people’s sleep patterns, resulting in insomnia and difficulties falling asleep.
But how accurate is anything here? What impact does coffee have on sleep? Does coffee put you to sleep? How does coffee impact the cycle of sleep and waking?
Caffeine’s impact on sleep quality is widely believed. Particularly, it is generally accepted that consuming coffee in the late afternoon shortens or altogether prevents sleep. Additionally, too much caffeine may cause more interruptions while you sleep.
Numerous scientific research back up these claims as being true. However, there are a few things that need to be clarified as well. First off, it appears that the amount of coffee consumed during the day rather than the time of the last cup of coffee contributes to difficulty falling asleep (the accumulation effect we mentioned above).
In addition, many persons with insomnia have a tendency to abuse coffee during the day, which might exacerbate their condition at night, according to a scientific study on the association between sleep and caffeine conducted by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC).
Caffeine is not only found in coffee
As we’ve already mentioned, caffeine is not only present in coffee beans but also in tea, chocolate, and beverages made with cocoa, despite the name’s potential for confusion. The South American beverage known for helping people lose weight, yerba mate, also has a lot of caffeine in it.
You’ll undoubtedly be surprised to learn that caffeine can still be found in decaffeinated coffee. However, only a portion of it is removed during the decaffeination process, despite the fact that its content is clearly reduced (it varies between 15 and 30%).
The molecule is also a key component of energy drinks like Red Bull and one of the primary components of cola drinks.
There are several caffeine-based medications, including certain painkillers, cold and allergy medications. It is frequently utilised to make weight loss pills due to its effects on the metabolism.
Now that you’re aware, you must never misuse caffeine despite the fact that it has numerous positive impacts. In truth, coffee is a potent energizer that increases performance and lifts the spirits. It stimulates the mind, memory, and focus. The circadian sleep-wake pattern, on the other hand, may be significantly impacted by excessive consumption, leading to insomnia and frequent awakenings when sleeping.
Therefore, drinking high-quality coffee in moderation at a lower quantity is the best balance for the body’s health.
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