Sleep and caffeine
Today I'm going to teach you everything you need to know about why we fall asleep, about sleep pressure and what caffeine has to do with it. It's going to be a little bit of a scientific one. I'm going to talk about caffeine and what it has to do with sleep, how it is affecting your sleep and when to have your best cup of coffee, if you really can't do without it.
First of all there are a couple of things we need to know about sleep. The reason why we sleep is manyfold; but one or two of the main important things that have to do with why we sleep is our circadian rhythm, which is basically our internal clock and sleep pressure. Just like we are hungry and have a pressure to eat; we also have a pressure to sleep. The interesting thing though is that our circadian rhythm and our internal clock and our sleep pressure, are two completely separate entities. They have nothing to do with each other, which I find absolutely fascinating.
Now our circadian rhythm is between 24 and 25 hours, which is absolutely astonishing. So for most of us it's going to be 24 hours and 15 to 20 minutes. It's not exactly 24 hours and so we're actually living in constant jet lag. That is circadian rhythm. That biological clock is going to trigger our body to go to sleep to some extent. That doesn't really have anything to do with caffeine. I'm going to do a separate episode on that if you're interested. If you are, just type into the comment section 'yes, I want to know more about my biological clock' and I will do a separate episode on it.
What we are going to focus on is the second element, which is sleep pressure.
The way that sleep pressure works, is that when we wake up after a great night's sleep, which means that you wake up naturally, you're energized and ready to tackle the day, which is the way you should wake up. If you don't wake up that way, it means that you didn't get enough sleep or that you didn't get good quality sleep and that's when you should reach out to me! So when we wake up after a great night's sleep, when our body has stored itself, when everything is the way it should be, then adenosine is very low and during the day it's basically going to build up until the evening, when it is at that pressure, which is making us tired and helping us to go to sleep.
The way it works, is that it's a hormone, being secreted and this hormone is floating around and needs its receptor to dock on to give the message to our brain and body. The really fascinating thing is that the molecules between adenosine and caffeine are very, very similar. What caffeine does, it's basically getting in the way of these receptors and it's docking onto those receptors instead of adenosine. This means that when you have your coffee, it's going to stop that pressure from building up. It's basically swooping in there and taking the spot that is actually destined for adenosine. Adenosine just has to wait until caffeine is being flushed out.
So why is this important?
Well, first of all, caffeine is not making you feel more refreshed. It's just keeping you from getting more and more tired. Second is the explanation of why you will have a huge dip, when your liver is kicking in to flush out caffeine. It's basically liberating that parking space, that receptive spade and adenosine comes flushing in. Because 'Yay, this is my home! This is where I was supposed to go, but someone was blocking it. Now the big bully is gone and I can finally get to my destination.' This also means that the sleep pressure, that has been parked outside waiting, is rushing in all at once, which is making you feel even worse than you did before. Instead of building up gently, you now have it full throttle hitting you.
The way that caffeine is going to make space, it's very individual. Caffeine is flushed out through the liver and converted through a certain enzyme in our liver. That enzyme works very individually.
Some of us have genetically an enzyme that gets rid of caffeine pretty quickly and others have an enzyme or enzymes that work slower. Some of us will be able to have an espresso at 10:00 PM and still go to bed at 11PM and sleep soundly. Others will take 7 to 8 hours until caffeine is actually gone from that adenosine receptor. For those people this means that a cup of cafe in the early afternoon could still be interfering with their evening. Having said that, it's not just coffee. It could also be something that you have in a tea. Also, decaf means that it's only 10 to 15 % caffeine, so it's reduced. However, if you have three cups of decaf, it's going to give the same results. It's not always the answer.
What would be the most logical thing to do if you need to have some energy and to be smart about it? The magic bullet that we use a lot in power napping, is that you take caffeine and caffeine takes around 30 minutes to kick in to get onto your receptors and to kind of just get all that going. The ideal thing is your circadian rhythm (we're talking about the first part again) has a natural dip between 1:30 and 3, 3:30 PM. You're going to feel tired around that time naturally anyway. The ideal scenario, if you have to have coffee, is that you have an espresso shot or quick coffee around that time. Have your power nap of max. 20 to 30 minutes and then you get up. You will then have energy from your power nap. Your natural circadian rhythm is having a second boost, plus your adenosine is being stopped so that you can use that energy from the power nap to be more productive. Don't kid yourself though, the black lash of that adenosine waiting, is going to come later in the day. Don't expect to be top performing during the afternoon and the evening. It's just not doable and the more you manipulate your body, the worse the backlash is going to be.
That's my little lesson on caffeine. If you find this interesting and if you're interested in jet lag, then just comment on the facebook live and you will receive my cheat sheet with 19 tips on how you can beat jet lag more efficiently. Caffeine is one of them. It will be sent into your messenger straightaway. If you are reading this, you can also go to my facebook page and watch me talk about it.
All right, I hope this was interesting for you and that it has helped you understand how caffeine and adenosine sleep pressure work with each other. One is the bully and it's up to you to decide which one!
I hope you have a wonderful week.