A new study suggests that people who drink coffee just a few hours before their usual bed time win some extra wake time.
Kenneth Wright Jr., sleep researcher, professor of Integrative Physiology over at the University of Colorado (Boulder), and study co-author, offered a statement informing that drinking a cup of coffee close to your usual bed time will not only make you alert momentarily, but it will also push “your [internal] clock later so you want to go to sleep later” on a regular basis.
But before you make any decisions you should also know that disrupting your internal clock may make you sluggish in the first half of the day. It’s also worth mentioning that the researchers have not looked into how consuming coffee early in the morning, or at any other moment of the day, might affect your internal clock
The internal clock of the body is known for managing sleep / wake cycle, as well as other biological rhythms. Previous studies have already shown that caffeine consumption does have the ability to change the internal clock of certain species and organisms such as algae, fruit flies, and maybe even mice.
Professor Wright admits that his study was a small one and that the findings need to be confirmed with a larger group of subjects, however the research still has the potential to lead to new therapies.
He and his team picked out five (5) people and examined how their internal clocks changed when the researchers gave them a capsule of caffeine just three (3) hours before they had to go to sleep.
The caffeine capsules were the equivalent of double espressos, and the researchers adjusted them to each subject’s body size. Subjects were also given placebo capsules, as a measure of control.
Additionally, Professor Wright and his team made sure to expose their subjects to either dim light or bright light, with the latter being known for its ability to reset a body’s internal clock and cause people to go to be later.
Overall, the study lasted 49 days and the conclusion was that exposure to bright light mixed with caffeine consumption ended up delaying the subjects’ internal clocks by 40 minutes, with the former accounting for half of this time.
A possible explanation is that caffeine may affect the signaling within cells, which in turn disrupts a core component of the cells’ internal clock.
Other field experts have received the findings well, but have also pointed at the study’s limitations. Jamie Zeitzer, sleep researcher and Stanford University’s assistant professor of behavioral sciences and psychiatry, offered a statement of his own stressing that the researchers have done a remarkable job of showing that caffeine can do more than just make people alert.
On the other hand, he also said the study had a very small number of subjects, which makes it difficult to generalize the findings.
However professor Zeitzer felt it was important to mention that the mix of exposure to bright light and caffeine consumption may be useful “as a typical countermeasure for jet lag or shift work”.
And if you’re the type that likes to be an early bird, there’s good news for you too – Professor Wright explained that “Removing coffee from your diet or just having it in the morning might help you achieve earlier bedtimes and wake times”.
The findings were published earlier this week, on September 16, 2015, in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
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