Iowa Sleep Blog

Healthy Sleep Habits: Avoiding Caffeine and Alcohol Before Bed

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

In the next few weeks, our blog will give an in-depth look at the most common tips for getting a good night’s sleep. Iowa Sleep will help you learn what steps you can take to better improve your sleep and the reasons behind each step.

If you’ve read our tips for getting a better night’s sleep in past blog posts, you may have noticed that limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption before bedtime is a common suggestion for developing better sleep habits. While an after dinner coffee or nightcap may be appealing choices to wind down the evening, these drinks can fragment your sleep. Here’s how.


The effects of caffeine are somewhat obvious. You know people drink coffee in the morning to help their body “wake up.” Or maybe you will occasionally drink a soda in the afternoon to stay alert after lunch. Caffeine is a stimulant, so once it enters your body it can increase awareness, causing shorter total sleep time, increases in light sleep, decreases in deep sleep and insomnia.

Knowing when to stop consuming foods and beverages with caffeine may help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly throughout the night. According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, consuming caffeine up to six hours before bedtime can reduce total sleep time by more than one hour. For optimal sleep, we recommend avoiding caffeinated foods and beverages after 4 p.m. This way, the effects of caffeine have time to wear off before you go to sleep.


Sometimes people feel tired after having an alcoholic drink or two. So how does it negatively impact sleep? One study found that alcohol may increase deep sleep at the beginning of the night, but disrupts the body later on, reducing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM is a restorative stage of sleep where dreams happen, memories are stored and learning occurs. Not getting enough REM sleep will leave you feeling drowsy and unable to concentrate the next day.

It takes about four to five hours to fully metabolize alcohol, however, many people experience sleep disruptions, such as waking up, even after the effects of alcohol have worn off. All in all, consuming alcohol close to bedtime can decrease the quality of your sleep, preventing you from feeling refreshed after you’ve woken up.

If you frequently consume caffeine or alcohol around bedtime, try giving it up for a while to see whether your sleep improves. You may find yourself sleeping longer, feeling more refreshed in the morning and concentrating better throughout the day.