I slept poorly last night. I’m sure you’ve been there too. And like me, you’ve probably made your coffee a little stronger when you struggle with slumber.
Of course, you might notice it can only do so much. Sure, coffee can boost your alertness and keep you awake the next day, but research suggests it’s not really going to help with more challenging tasks.
You might be able to put your dishes away unencumbered, but grocery shopping, work, or other things that require more than minimum brain power are almost certainly to suffer.
A recent study looked at exactly how coffee influenced sleep-deprived brain function. Researchers asked participants to deprive themselves of sleep, either in their homes or a lab, and then take a 200 mg caffeine pill the next morning (a regular cup of coffee typically has 75 to 100 mg). Then they had to perform simple or complex tasks.
Sleep loss impaired performance on all tasks. However, the complex tasks suffered much more.
If you’re regularly sleeping poorly and trying to offset it with caffeinated beverages like coffee or energy drinks, you are likely harming yourself, and your productivity, in the long run.
Consistent sleep deprivation can create sleep debt that can’t be fixed with stimulants. You need good quality, restorative sleep every night to make sure you stay healthy and function your best, both mentally and physically.
You can likely pay back slight sleep debt – say one or two nights every once in a while – with a big sleep on the weekend or naps. But the day following a poor sleep, you’re likely to struggle no matter what. But remember, it’s a long-term game.
The more consistently you can get high-quality restorative sleep, the better off you will be.
You can help yourself sleep better by avoiding big meals late in the evening, caffeine, and alcohol within hours before bed, relaxing before sleep, and ensuring your bedroom is quiet, dark, comfortable, and screen-free.