How to sleep after coffee? 32 tips to help you fall asleep faster

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You had a ton of coffee to help you through the last bit of a long day. Now, you’re finally heading to bed, and you just can’t sleep. How do you counteract all that caffeine? Surely others have figured this out, right? While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this all too common problem, we do have some advice, garnered from other professionals around the web. Try them out – let us know what works for you.

[1] This Too Shall Pass

Caffeine creates an adrenaline rush, which is probably what’s keeping you awake. It’s worth noting that caffeine works through your system in roughly 45 minutes, so waiting just a bit should help you fall asleep. Perhaps you suffer from some underlying anxiety, or you’re just super excited. You know, it’s the day before you start a new job, or maybe it’s your birthday tomorrow, or you’re getting married! All of these could exacerbate the situation, but this too shall pass. Excitement and anxiety generally level off after about 20 minutes, which would allow you to catch some much-needed shuteye.

The key here is to take control of your emotions. You see, when we’re tossing and turning from excitement, we start stressing about the fact that we’re not sleeping. In effect, we’re replacing one stress factor with another, keeping ourselves awake in the process. So counterproductive! The downside of all these stressful emotions is that they cause your body to produce cortisol, the hormone that keeps us awake. Caffeine does the same through adenosine inhibition, so you’re piling up the sleep deprivation here.

[2] Stop Staring at Your Phone

This is a thing. Screens keep us awake for so many reasons. It could be that the content is super engaging, so you don’t want to go to sleep. But, actually, it’s the blue light emitted by your screen. This blue light suppresses melatonin production – this is the hormone you need to sleep. With suppressed melatonin production, you will struggle to fall asleep, and you’ll wake up at intervals all through the night. So, whether you’ve had too much coffee or not, stay away from your phone and other screens for at least one hour before you head to bed.

[3] Associate Your Bed With Sleep

When we hang out in our bedrooms all day long, watching Netflix, working in bed, and all that jazz, our brains go bonkers. Really. With us being creatures of habit, our brains need training on where the sleep space is, where the workspace is, and where the play space is. If you use your bed for anything other than actual sleep, your brain gets confused and suddenly doesn’t know what to do in that space.

If you’re a severe coffeeholic, you probably already have some minor sleep issues. Help yourself out and don’t confuse the old think tankuse your bed only for sleep and make sure that your bedroom is adequately dark when you hit the hay. If you live in an area that never sleeps, consider using earplugs or noise-canceling headphones, and a sleep mask.

[4] Play Dead

This one sounds so weird. You’re not a dog, so why should you play dead? Turns out, if you lie flat on your back with your arms by your sides (the yoga “corpse pose“), your entire body relaxes. While you’re in this position, breathe slowly and deeply, focussing on the weight of your body. They say this helps you relax, which induces sleep. Cool!

Alternatively, you could do a muscle-relaxing exercise. Here, you slowly tense and relax every muscle in your body, one at a time, while you’re in the “corpse pose.” Start with your toes, then work your way up all the way to your face. This enhances blood circulation and helps you relax. Don’t think of other stuff while you’re doing this – that will get the hamster in your head cranking on its wheel again, defeating the purpose.

[5] Coffee Naps

Say what? Yup, it’s a thing. From when you have your awesomely brewed espresso to when that caffeine rush hits you, you have about 20 minutes. Caffeine inhibits adenosine production – that’s the hormone that makes you sleepy. Sleep clears the adenosine from your brain. So, why not combine the two? Now, you get a proper 20-minute cat nap, and you prep your body for that energy spike, all at the same time. If you get this right, you might last a bit longer during the day and not struggle so much with coffee-induced insomnia come bedtime.

[6] Chill

Setting the scene for bedtime is essential. We already spoke about only using your bed for sleep and not using your phone before bedtime. As you’re nearing bedtime, do something relaxing – read a book, take a nice, hot shower, or soak in some bubble bath. Whatever floats your boat. By the time you’re done, you’ll be adequately tired and ready to float off to dreamland.

[7] Drink Some Water

Caffeine dehydrates you. While this may make some people drowsy, it usually leads to some pretty poor sleep. You will probably wake up in the middle of the night with your mouth and throat, both feeling like a parched desert. Do yourself a solid and have some water before you hit the sack. Or, even better, add some electrolyte suspension to that glass of water. It’s bound to make you feel better and improve your quality of sleep.

Water could also flush caffeine from your system (partially, at least), so having a few glasses is definitely a good idea.

[8] Eat Something Healthy

After a rough day where you really hit the coffee station hard, you need to take some good care of your body. During those hectic days, most people don’t eat properly. We’ve all been there – you have so much coffee, and you’re cramming in so much work to meet that deadline, that you have absolutely no appetite, and you forget to eat. Or you’re munching on a chocolate or snack bar. Not the greatest recipe for success, I’m afraid.

So, if you had your last cup for the day a bit late (or even if you didn’t), have a healthy, balanced meal a few hours before bedtime. This helps your body cope with everything you threw at it during the day and helps it metabolize all that food before you head to bed.

If you’re peckish around bedtime, have a light, healthy snack. Opt for fruit, veggies, or crackers. These are packed with nutrients, but light enough not to cause indigestion during the night. Don’t eat a heavy meal just before bedtime, since this will keep you awake for longer as your body struggles to digest all of that yummy food.

[9] Have Some Vitamins

Taking a balanced multivitamin daily is a good idea, regardless of your lifestyle. If you’ve had a lot of caffeine, your body probably needs a bit of love. Here, a good multivitamin would help restore the natural balance in your body and possibly help you sleep better too.

[10] Light Exercise

If you’re still awake after trying the relaxation techniques mentioned above, do some light exercise. Don’t do a heavy workout – the idea is not to make you sweat, just to tire you out a bit. Instead of opting for cardio, do some bodyweight exercises, such as planks, situps, and pushups. These should do the trick.

[12] Have Some Warm Milk

This sounds like your grandma’s advice, but it works! Science taught us that milk is a source of tryptophan. This amino acid converts to melatonin, after a brief stint as serotonin. Melatonin makes you sleepy, so it’s a win! This doesn’t work for everyone, but hey, you won’t know if you don’t try.

[13] Herbal Tea, Anyone?

Herbal tea is the good stuff, loaded with antioxidants and other things your body needs. You’d typically have this beverage to aid in indigestion, combat the flu, or protect your cells. As it turns out, the good stuff in herbal tea neutralizes the effect of caffeine on your body. So, if you hit the cuppa Jo a bit hard, give the herbal tea a go.

[14] Have a Vitamin C Boost

Caffeine makes your body think that it doesn’t have enough Vitamin C, even when you do. So, if you’ve had a bit too much coffee, have an orange, or one of those fizzy Vitamin C boosters. Upping the concentration of this essential vitamin in your bloodstream will negate some of the nasty caffeine-related side effects.

[15] Use a Weighted Blanket

Weighted blankets tap into our primal instincts. If you’re weighed down just a little (these blankets weigh about a tenth of your body weight), your brain decides that you’re safe and don’t have to be alert for possible dangers. This feeling of safety allows your body to relax completely, helping you sleep.

If you have restless leg syndrome, or if you’re extra jittery from that recent caffeine rush, weighted blankets have the added benefit of physically restraining your movement. If you can’t move around that much, you can’t keep yourself awake by fidgeting. That’s a win in my book.

[16] Boost You Melatonin Levels

It’s not recommended that you take meds to counteract your late-night coffee habits, but if you’re really desperate, give this one a go. These tablets boost the levels of sleep-inducing melatonin in your blood, helping you settle down for the night.

Pay attention to the dosage – ask your pharmacist for help on this one.

[17] Do a Brain Dump

If your mind is super alert and you just can’t get that friggin hamster in your head to stop running on its wheel, you need to do something to get the thoughts out. Take some pen and paper and do a brain dump. Say what now? It sounds weird, but it’s not, actually. Write down everything that’s milling around in your mind. Don’t worry about the format or if it actually makes sense. The idea is to simply get the thoughts out of your head, not to necessarily look at them later.

This technique works exceptionally well for external processors. You know, people who have to say or write down their thoughts to process things properly. Internal processors, on the other hand, process things inside their heads and have trouble putting words to half-formulated thoughts. 

If you fall within the external processor category, this technique could be of tremendous help to you, even when you didn’t have too much coffee.

[18] Stick to your Normal Routine

Sticking to your usual bedtime routine helps your brain and body relax since it knows that it’s time to sleep now. So, even if you’re buzzing wildly from that crazy caffeine rush, stick to your guns. Don’t fall for the temptation of staying up later and getting started on other tasks or activities. Switching up your routine confuses your brain and body, making you more alert and preventing sleep for longer.

[19] Cool Things Down – But Not Too Much

If you’re buzzing around bedtime, switch on the air-con, if you have one. If you don’t have air-con, use a fan, or whatever else you have available to cool down your room. Heck, I’ve even put a damp scarf over my arms and legs to combat the heat at night. The smart people say that temperatures between 15 and 20 degrees C are best for a good night’s sleep, so aim for that.

Sweating it up when you’re trying to get some shuteye is downright uncomfortable and should be avoided, caffeine or not.

Having things too cold, on the other hand, is also not conducive to sleep. So, when you cool down your room, don’t go overboard, with you lying there, shivering. That will keep you awake as well since your body now produces more adrenaline to keep you warm. Balance is the answer.

[20] White Noise

White noise apparently helps you relax and sleep. So, if you’re struggling to drift into dreamland, switch on a fan or humidifier to generate some white noise. You could switch on the radio at a low volume and tune it away from any radio station – that also creates some beautiful white noise.

If you don’t have these things handy, check the internet for some white noise recordings. I’m sure there are plenty. Just stay away from those sites associated with the horror movie – that’s definitely not conducive to a peaceful night’s sleep.

[21] Take Care of the Morning’s Stuff Before Bed

Worrying about what you need to do in the morning, adds to an already stressful situation when you can’t fall asleep. So, before hitting the hay, finish up as much as you can of the stuff that needs doing before you head off to work in the morning. You know, things like taking out the trash, sorting laundry, packing lunch, choosing an outfit for work (or that crazy important interview), or whatever else is waiting on your to-do list. That way, you have peace of mind that the morning is cared for – you can focus on getting some Z’s and not worry about so much stuff.

[22] Crank Some Soothing Tunes

If you’re buzzing, you need to calm down, and what better way is there than listening to some soothing tunes? So, play something soothing in the background while you’re getting ready for bed. I mean, come on, this trick is as old as time – that’s why moms around the world sing lullabies to their babies at bedtime.

You don’t have to stick to actual instrumental musicsounds of nature would work just as well.

[23] Gentle Movement

If you have a hammock or rocking chair, get into that for a while before bedtime. The soothing movement of gently rocking to a fro is bound to calm you down, despite all that caffeine coursing through your veins. This one also goes way back – ever seen a mom rocking a newborn to sleep?

[24] Aromatherapy

Our senses are powerful. This is especially true for our sense of smell. So, if you’re having a hard time calming down enough to get some shuteye, try some aromatherapy. Certain aromas are associated with relaxation, so use scented oils or candles, or herbal concentrates, such as lavender, to help you calm down.

[25] Meditate

We’re not talking hard-core meditation, where you need an instructor to guide you through the steps. Nope. When you’re trying to sleep, but you’re buzzing, and your mind is wandering, focus on something calming that you really enjoy. A walk on the beach, or your grandmother’s cooking, or cuddling up with your dog. Concentrate on that, and imagine that you’re in that situation right now. Walk yourself through it, step by step. This will help your mind calm down, which will, in turn, help your body follow suit. Do this until you feel drowsy. Now, you’re ready for that good night’s sleep you so desperately need.

[26] Avoid Smoking

Smoking is terrible for you, full stop. That said, if you’re a smoker, avoid having a cigarette around bedtime. Cigarettes contain nicotine, a stimulant that’s bound to make sleeping even harder than it already is with all that caffeine in your system. While the act of having a cigarette might feel calming, you’re actually injecting a wake-me-up straight into your system. So, it’s a bad idea all around.

[27] Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol is a depressant, so it could help you calm down a bit before bedtime. The downside is that it will cause you to wake up again soon after, which is definitely not good for proper rest during the night. Also, if you overdo it, or if you’re a light drinker, you could wake up with a terrible hangover. Either way, it’s a bad idea.

[28] If You Can’t Sleep, Get Up

Lying in bed for hours, fidgeting as you’re trying to fall asleep, doesn’t help anyone. If you’ve been lying in bed for about 15 minutes, waiting to fall asleep, and you’re not drowsy yet, get up and do something relaxing. This helps your brain associate your bed with sleep and the rest of your home with other activities. Don’t do anything that will make you super alert, though, since this will not help you fall asleep again. When you’re feeling drowsy, head back to bed and try again.

[29] Soak Up the Sun

Get enough direct sunlight on your skin during the day. Sunshine is our primary source of Vitamin D, which is essential for our physical and emotional well-being. So, having enough exposure to this helps us sleep better at night.

While this might not help you in the last-minute panic when you’ve accidentally had too much coffee before bed, it will definitely help you in the long run.

[30] Don’t Switch Up Day and Night

All of us are programmed with a natural clock that knows day from night. Your body knows that it should be awake during the day and asleep during the night, and it produces the required hormones at the right time to help you with this. So, if you’re buzzing with coffee just before bedtime, don’t get tempted to switch up your day and night. Doing this will confuse your body and up-end the sleep/awake hormonal balance. This hormonal imbalance could take days to level out again, leaving you feeling permanently hungover for a few days. That’s not worth it.

[31] Get Up At the Normal Time

If you’ve had a bad night, caused by that caffeine overdose just before bedtime, you might be tempted to call in sick, so you can sleep it off. While it feels good at the time, this will upset your body’s finely crafted hormonal balance. You know, the natural clock that tells you when to sleep and when to be awake. So, instead of changing your morning routine, get up and at it as you usually would. This will help your body recover much quicker.

In Closing

Having too much coffee before bedtime is not a good idea. That said, it happens sometimes. Usually, when we’re not paying particular attention to the clock when we’re brewing that awesomely strong, indulgent cup of freshly ground gourmet coffee. Man, just the thought makes me crave a good cuppa Joe right now!

That said, we trust that you found this article helpful in trying to get some shuteye after brewing one too many.