As a sleep superhero, I’ve absorbed volumes of knowledge about better rest, but I’m always learning more. While studying the various aspects of sleep, I came across some eye-opening facts about caffeine—if only you had seen my face when I read about it.
It was a somber moment because I realized I needed to drink less coffee in order to maximize my sleep. When you’re a grown man wearing a Superhero Sleep Suit, your face shouldn’t look as sad as mine did at that moment.
I read that caffeine hangs out in your bloodstream and in your brain for a long time after you drink it—much longer than I ever expected or would have guessed. Caffeine has a half-life of about 5-6 hours. If you aren’t familiar with the term half-life, let’s dive in.
Time for some quick maths.
Let’s say your workday is dragging on. It’s 2:30 p.m. and you’re on the struggle bus again. So the plan is to grab a cup of coffee or an energy drink at 3 p.m. to make it to the end of your shift. Fast forward six hours and it’s now 9 p.m. Fifty percent of the caffeine you drank is still swirling around in places that should be winding down. Fast forward a little further to 11 p.m., and 25 percent of that caffeine is still hanging out doing what it does best. And for the record, shots of tequila do not negate the effects of caffeine. (It’s actually much worse, but alcohol is a whole other episode!)
So, now that you know what I know, I will share that up until February 17, 2021 I drank at least two cups and sometimes as many as five cups of coffee in a day. It was built into my routine for years and previous attempts to stop had proved unsuccessful. However, I have some new tools in the tool belt. Both Matthew Walker’s Master Class “Science of Sleep,” as well as the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear on breaking and building new habits. And now I am proudly on the other side of the fence. Coffee-free and feeling great.
I won’t lie. The first few days were miserable! I had a headache for two solid days. I still craved a warm cup of something, so I substituted it with caffeine-free tea. I cleaned up my coffee maker and put it in the garage, hidden away. Out of sight, out of mind! And while it was a rough start, I made extra sure to keep to a tight sleep routine schedule so if the moment came of weakness, I would make the right decision.
It had been floated before that Mattman without coffee was still a high-energy dude. It is a lot of fun proving that theory to be correct! I’m not one to drink a lot of energy drinks, soda, or much else with caffeine, so by quitting coffee, I nixed a good 95 percent of caffeine from my daily diet.
I don’t miss it as much as I thought. And the biggest difference I feel in my routine comes around 9 p.m. when I’m starting my wind down. My body is ready for bed! I recall forcing myself to sleep and now my mattress is calling my name! (Full disclosure I’m not on a first-name basis with my mattress, it doesn’t actually speak to me)
It’s no coincidence that Feb. 17th, 2021 is also the kick-off to Lent, a religious observance six weeks prior to Easter. The tradition is you give something up during Lent. So, now I share with my customers that I have given up coffee as an icebreaker. The replies I get are hysterical and passionate! I see a lot of my previous mindset in the quick “no way, Jose” Heisman-hand at the mere mention of somebody stopping coffee consumption. But the reality is some of those people are shopping to get a better night’s sleep and no matter what I say, their caffeine consumption is not going to change.
The best solution I have come up with so far is to encourage a caffeine curfew. You need to establish a firm bedtime in order for your curfew to be effective. Set your caffeine curfew at least 10 hours before bedtime. The earlier your curfew is set, the more chance your brain has of making the right mixture of chemicals it’s normally supposed to produce that send your body signals it’s time for bed. Even if caffeine doesn’t stop you from falling asleep quickly, it definitely makes it harder to get the deep, rejuvenating sleep you need to awaken your superpowers.
Life has changed for the better now that I have broken my daily coffee routine. I have already saved $20 I would have spent in a drive-thru. My nighttime routine is easier than before. And above all, I am more confident that I have the power to change my bad habits! While it felt like giving up coffee was a bigger mountain than I could climb, turns out it was an easier goal to achieve with superpowers!