Work, home responsibilities and long commutes can combine for a busy schedule, and many people will use coffee, tea, or energy drinks in order to help make up for lost sleep. The issue of lost sleep is extremely widespread: according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), around 1 in 3 Americans do not get enough sleep on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, according to a study presented at the Sleep 2016 Conference, the annual meeting of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society, caffeine does not appear to help with the symptoms of sleep deprivation – and can actually make the problem worse.
In this study, participants were required to get only 5 hours of sleep nightly for 5 nights in a row. During this time, subjects were either given a placebo or 200mg of caffeine at 8am and 12pm daily. However, by the third day, the caffeinated patients were falling asleep just as easily as the control group and their reactions times were just as slow. They also appeared to be more jittery and irritable than the group which had not been given caffeine.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, lead author Tracy Jill Doty, PhD, noted that, “As your sleep debt gets higher, levels of a neurotransmitter that's associated with sleepiness are building up in your brain....I think there's a point of no return, when caffeine can't help and the only way to recover is to get some sleep."
And there's more at stake here than just daytime drowsiness and being irritable from
caffeine. Sleep deprivation brings with it a number of serious risks, according to the authors of Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: an Unmet Public Health Problem, chronic lack of sleep can lead to weight problems, heart disease, diabetes, emotional issues like depression and an increased risk for alcohol abuse. In short, sleep deprivation can have a whole array of problems that no amount of coffee can solve! We're no coffee haters. We love a latte as much as the next person, just make sure you pair it with a good night's sleep. ☕