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Caffeine and Your Healthy Sleep

What you eat and drink, and when, are vital inputs to or barriers to your healthy sleep. On the top of the list of food items to be concerned about in this context is caffeine. Caffeine is everywhere. On every continent and in every nation, food and beverage products containing caffeine are consumed in massive quantities by people of all ages except, so far, small children and infants. Caffeine is, indeed, a very popular drug. In its purest form, it is a white, bitter-tasting, crystalline substance that-was first identified and refined from coffee in 1819 by a German chemist. In fact, the term caffeine is derived from the German word for coffee, Kaffee, which when translated into English came to be the word caffeine we use today.

It is popularly understood that caffeine is an energy-booster which can revive a tired person or help us stay awake during study, work or other demanding tasks. It is also popularly understood that caffeine can and does cause irritability, interrupts and/or delays sleep and can create an unhealthy dependency. The potency of caffeine is revealed both through its consumption and in the symptoms of withdrawal that manifest themselves when you stop. Cutting off caffeine in a person use to a regular intake almost always causes headaches, sometimes severe as the blood vessels in the brain expand as the drug level diminishes, along with dropping energy levels and even a depressed feeling. 1

While caffeine in massive doses can be extremely toxic and caffeine dependence is considered a serious condition, as drugs go, the caffeine in coffee and other common products is considered by most people to be a mild, socially acceptable substance; but it is still a stimulant and parents especially need to be mindful of their children's consumption of such beverages, including colas and chocolate drinks. This is especially the case if sleep issues and all that they can entail in terms of poor school performance and behavioral problems are at all present.

You can see why your body might like caffeine in the short term, especially if you are low on sleep and need to remain active. Caffeine blocks adenosine reception so you feel alert. It injects adrenaline into the system to give you a boost. And it manipulates dopamine production to make you feel good. The problem with caffeine is the longer-term effects, which tend to spiral. For example, once the adrenaline wears off, you face fatigue and depression. So what are you going to do? You consume more caffeine to get the adrenaline going again.2

The effects of caffeine on sleep are almost universally understood. If you drink coffee or strong tea before you try and sleep, it will delay sleep onset, shorten overall sleep time, and reduce the "depth" of sleep. The presence of caffeine in the bloodstream from coffee or other means can cause a reduction in the quality as well as the duration of sleep, causes additional movement during sleep and is responsible for increased incidents of awakening throughout the night. Caffeine also has an impact on body temperature during sleep, possibly disrupting the natural cycle of temperature changes that accompanies the various sleep cycles.

The effects of caffeine on dreaming, so important to restful, restorative sleep, are less clear but new research is reportedly underway to explore this possible area of concern. It takes about six hours for the body to process the caffeine contained in a medium sized cup of coffee. This is an important clue for those who wish to avoid the sleep complication so widely correctly associated with coffee consumption. In fact, having a caffeine monitoring plan for yourself and your family that seeks to measure both caffeine quantity consumed and when, is a great way to start to both be aware of and to limit caffeine intake where necessary.

Coffee is caffeine's most common delivery method. The term "coffee" has its origins in Arabic, reflecting coffee's earliest usage as a beverage in the Middle East. Folk takes tell of a shepherd in Ethiopia who saw his goats behave with unusual energy and animation after they ate of the berries of a primitive coffee plant. Its transition from goat stimulant to the most popular hot beverage in the world includes its spread into Europe via Arabia and Turkey from north-east Africa, where coffee trees were cultivated in the 6th century. Coffee began to be popular in Europe in the 17th century. By the 18th century plantations had been established in Africa, Indonesia, South America and the West Indies.

Caffeine is present in all varieties of coffee bean, though the content will differ by as much as 50 percent. Coffee Arabica, produced largely in South America, have about 1% caffeine. The stronger Robusta beans, grown mostly in Indonesia and Africa, contain about 2% caffeine.

Caffeine is also found in tea. It was first isolated from tea leaves in 1827 and named "theine" because it was believed to be a distinctly different compound from the caffeine in coffee, which is has now been shown not to be the case. Caffeine is caffeine. Tea leaves contain about 3.5% caffeine, but a cup of tea usually contains less caffeine than a cup of coffee because much less tea than coffee is used during preparation. There is a great debate but not a lot of definitive analysis about which kinds of tea have the most or the least amounts n caffeine, and the green teas versus Black teas debate will continue until such results are in. Herbal teas, however, seem to offer a wide range of completely caffeine-free alternatives, a fact that their manufacturers do stress in marketing their respective brands. Caffeine is also present in the cocoa plant and hence almost all chocolate products. It is also found in smaller traces in the cola or kola nuts used to make a wide range of soft drinks.

In the United States, the caffeine content of a cup of coffee averages about 75 mg, but varies widely according to cup size, the method of preparation, and the amount of coffee used. In South America, Europe and much of Asia, where the preparation process is different in that more coffee is used and cups are often prepared individually, the caffeine content can be somewhat higher. Most instant coffee products contain less caffeine (average 65'mg) and cups prepared by drip methods contain more caffeine (average 110 mg). Cups of tea average about 30 mg, but the range is also large, from 10 to 90 mg.

Soft drinks containing caffeine make up more than two-thirds of the world's soft drink consumption. Most prominent are the wide array of cola drinks which on average contain about 35 mg caffeine per 280 ml_ serving. Caffeine is clearly a major feature of what the makers consider key ingredients since only about 5% of the caffeine comes naturally from the cola nuts used in their manufacturer, with the rest being added from the extracted substance obtained in the process of decaffeination of coffee and tea. Chocolate flavored milk products have only small amounts of caffeine but a single cup of hot chocolate might contains about 4 mg caffeine. Chocolate can contain between 5 and 60 mg, per 50 grams of product, increasing with the quality of the chocolate. Caffeine is an ingredient of certain over the counter as well as prescription pain relievers, the exact content of which vary greatly. It is the main ingredient of non-prescription "stay-awake" pills (100-200 mg).

Coffee used to be an old people's drink; the stuff that grownups drank. Today, thanks to the emergence of high-profile retail outlets, from Starbucks to McDonalds, where traditional coffee is still available but alongside a wide range of sweet, cream and flavor-added beverages both hot and cold are attracting young consumers at enormous rates. Decaffeinated coffee products certainly reduce the amounts of caffeine, but they also have pos  sible outstanding health issues related to their consumption, including suspected cancer-causing residues, .from some of the chemicals used in the decaffeination process. Possible connections between decaffeinated coffee and "cancer are being investigated and concerns continue to linger. On top of that, de-caffeinated coffee still has some caffeine left in it.

In recent years, caffeine has also been added to soap and shampoo products on the basis of the notion that caffeine will be absorbed through the skin from the products used in the bath or shower process. While compelling data have yet to be published to show that this is, indeed, the case, the attraction of caffeine in the market place continues to be openly and aggressively exploited so as in all things, may the buyer beware.

Caffeine content of food items and OTC preparations3
The caffeine content of various food items and medications is as follows:

Brewed coffee, 8-oz cup: 135-150 mg

  • Instant coffee, 8-oz cup: 95 mg
  • Powdered cappuccino beverage, 8-oz cup: 45-60 mg
  • Tea brewed from leaves or bag, 8-oz cup: 50 mg
  • Iced tea from mix, 8-oz glass: 25-45 mg
  • Snapple iced tea, 8-oz glass: 21 mg
  • Mountain Dew, 8-oz glass: 38 mg
  • Dr. Pepper, 8-oz. glass: 28 mg
  • Diet cola, 8-oz glass: 31 mg
  • Root beer, 8-oz glass: 16 mg
  • Coffee ice cream, 8-oz serving: 60-85 mg
  • Coffee yogurt, 8-oz serving: 45 mg.
  • Dark chocolate candy bar, 1.5 oz: 31 mg
  • NoDoz, regular strength, 1 tablet: 100 mg
  • NoDoz, maximum strength, 1 tablet: 200 mg
  • Excedrin, 2 tablets: 130 mg
  1. Griffiths, R. R., and A. L. Chausmer. "Caffeine as a Model Drug of Dependence: Recent Developments in Understanding Caffeine Withdrawal, the Caffeine Dependence Syndrome, and Caffeine Negative Reinforcement." Nihon Shinkei Seishin Yakurigaku Zasshi 20 (November 2000): 223-231.
  2. Brain, Marshall, Bryant, Charles, "How Caffeine Works,"
  3. "Caffeine Related Disorders," Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders,

The International Chiropractors Association is presently engaged in a comprehensive review of sleep research with the aim of making those findings available to chiropractic practitioners worldwide. We also believe that this review of the current state of sleep research will point to areas where additional study is needed and, in cooperation with our affiliated educational institutions and with the support of our sleep products partner King Koil Indonesia, we hope to help fill such gaps in the understanding of healthy sleep. For more information contact International Chiropractors Association at [email protected], 01-703-528-5000 or contact King Koil Indonesia.



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