Caffeine and your Circadian Rhythm

Caffeine and your Circadian Rhythm

Coffee or tea, for many, is a staple part of their daily routine! Especially for early mornings, it can seem almost impossible to function without coffee. Caffeine helps us to feel more alert for our day, especially if we might have missed out on sleep the night before.

However, if caffeine is consumed too late in the day, you can have trouble falling asleep. Each person has something called the “circadian rhythm”. Consuming caffeine at an inappropriate time can throw off that rhythm.

What is the circadian rhythm?

The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that regulates our bodies. Think of it as a personal internal rhythm that is specific to your body. External and internal factors influence the way your body’s rhythm works.

Where is the circadian rhythm located?

Our circadian rhythm is in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). This special group of nuclei are located in our hypothalamus, which is in the middle of our brain. The SCN is responsible for creating different rhythms for the circadian cycle. You can think of the SCN as the control center where directions are processed before creating the circadian rhythm.

What is the function of the circadian rhythm?

The circadian rhythm is responsible for instilling a balance in our body. When there are changes in our normal environment, our rhythm will be altered. For example, if there is an increase in light while we are sleeping, our rhythm may be thrown off. Additionally, if there are interruptions from factors such as excess exercise, medications, or even a change of hormones, our rhythm will be changed.

How does caffeine play a role in our circadian rhythm?

Caffeine is a stimulant, therefore it has the potential to alter the rhythm of your internal clock. For example, if you have a coffee after dinner, your body might feel a little out of balance. Caffeine has a half-life of three to five hours. The half-life is the amount of time your metabolism needs to flush out half of the ingredient from your body. If you consume it after dinner, you may find yourself staying up later than you anticipated.

While there are no hard and fast rules for consuming caffeine, these are some tips that will hopefully guide you. Listen to your body and see what works for you, as everyone is different with a specific circadian rhythm!