What time should you drink black coffee?

cup of black coffee

QUESTION: What time should you drink black coffee? Only in the morning, or something else? – Jared L

ANSWER: Coffee drinkers love to start their day off with a hot cup of joe. The caffeine boost that people get from coffee is, for some folks, the only way to start off their mornings. Those that depend on coffee to start off their day, however, oftentimes end up drinking coffee all day long as well. When you intake caffeine late in the day, it can adversely affect your sleep cycle.

For this reason, medical professionals recommend that coffee drinkers intake no more than four eight ounce cups of coffee per day. It is also recommended that coffee lovers stop drinking coffee in the early afternoon as well, as physicians urge no coffee drinks up to six hours before bedtime, in order to avoid restlessness. 

If you prefer very strong coffee, you might want to limit yourself to three cups of coffee per day instead of four, as strongly brewed coffee is higher in caffeine, and you can easily hit the recommended daily caffeine limit with just three cups of coffee if you make it strong. 

Experts also stress the importance of not drinking coffee as the first thing you do in the morning either. This is because your body naturally produces increased levels of cortisol upon waking up. Cortisol is a naturally occurring stress hormone that the body produces which makes you feel more alert, but too much cortisol can increase anxiety. Drinking coffee first thing in the morning increases the cortisol levels, which are already elevated when you first wake up. 

In order to keep your hormones balanced, dieticians recommend moving your first thing in the morning ritual back just a little bit to mid-mornings, waiting for at least one hour after waking up to have your morning joe. 

Every human body functions differently, and everyone’s system processes caffeine differently as well. However, most people process caffeine and flush it through their system within four to six hours. Therefore, if you drink your last cup of coffee around 3pm, you should be able to sleep without any restlessness caused by caffeine consumption if you lay down for bed anytime after 9pm. If you don’t usually go to sleep until 1am, on the other hand, you can drink coffee as late as 7pm without tossing and turning when it’s time to hit the hay. 

If you only drink one or two cups of coffee per day, you probably don’t need to be concerned about ingesting too much caffeine each day. However, if you drink more than four cups of coffee per day, or more than three cups of extra strong coffee each day, you might be getting too much caffeine. Ingesting too much caffeine can cause a wide range of issues, including insomnia, anxiety, increased, or rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, fatigue, irritability, stress, and digestive problems. Those who are dependent on caffeine actually end up losing energy when they overload their body with excess caffeine. 

Research has shown that the stimulant properties of coffee can actually interrupt your body’s natural flow of melatonin, the chemical which causes sleepiness. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone which is produced in the pineal gland in the human brain. It is responsible for controlling your body’s natural rhythms, making you tired in the evening and wakeful in the mornings. Studies have found that drinking coffee can reduce the body’s melatonin levels by up to 50%, and can easily reduce the amount of sleep a person gets by as much as one and a half hours. 

Over 40% of Americans report that they do not get enough sleep on a regular basis. Meanwhile, over 85% of people in the United States regularly consume caffeine, and the most popular method of caffeine consumption, by far, is coffee. The effect of caffeine on the body’s sleep cycle has been widely studied. If you are a coffee drinker and you have trouble sleeping, you might want to consider altering the amount of coffee that you drink, as well as how late you choose to consume it. 

Coffee seems to affect people’s ability to sleep, but as with most things, there are some exceptions to the rule. You probably know someone who drinks coffee all day and claims to sleep like a baby no matter how late they drink their brew. This difference can be observed because people metabolize coffee at different rates. Some people can metabolize a cup of coffee’s worth of caffeine in just a couple of hours, while others take as much as 12 hours to process the same amount. As a general rule, unless you have an odd sleep schedule, it’s a good idea to stop drinking coffee around six hours before you typically go to bed. 

Though some people metabolize coffee at much faster rates than others, it is still a good idea to follow this rule even if you believe you are one of those people. Even if you are able to fall asleep easily after drinking coffee, it doesn’t mean that you will sleep as deeply, or that you will not have your sleep cycle shortened by caffeine’s effect on your body. 

Another good thing to remember when considering what time of day to stop drinking caffeine, is that coffee isn’t the only thing that contains caffeine. There are also high levels of caffeine in many teas, sodas, and energy drinks as well. There are even substantial amounts of caffeine found in some chocolates and common medications as well. Of course, there is caffeine in supplements and over-the-counter medicines that are for energy, such as no-doz, and caffeine pills, but there is also caffeine in medications that you might not expect to find it in, such as the headache medicine Excedrin and Excedrin Migraine. If you are worried about caffeine’s potential effect on your sleep, it’s always a good idea to avoid consuming any product that contains caffeine within six hours of your bedtime. 

Avoiding caffeine just after waking up, and in the six hour period before bedtime should help you avoid excess stress and anxiety, and will help promote a more restful, fulfilling night’s sleep. According to dieticians, the best time to consume coffee if you wake up early, between 6 and 8am and go to sleep around 8 to 10pm, is between 9 and 11am, and definitely no later than 3 or 4pm in the afternoon.

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