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Revealed: The perfect time to drink your coffee (and it’s not before 10am!)

Research into the nation’s coffee drinking habits has revealed that the UK is crazy about caffeine, with people drinking an average of three cups per day. Yet when it comes to drinking your first coffee of the day, it turns out that 82% of people have been doing it all wrong.

The research by bed and sleep specialist Time 4 Sleep looked into the amount of coffee people in the UK are consuming, how it can impact sleep and the time we tend to drink our first cuppa of the day.

According to health expert Dr Sarah Brewer, your first cup of the day should be no earlier than 10am. Despite this advice, the average time for people to have their first morning cup is at 8:30am.

UK spending on hot drinks is on the rise. According to recent research, in 2017 the average amount we spent on coffee, tea and cocoa in the UK was around £3.5 billion, the highest it’s ever been.

Another study found the value of coffee imported to the UK in 2017 was around £801 million, in comparison to just £267,649 ten years previously (in 2007).

Time 4 Sleep worked with Dr Brewer to find out when we really should be drinking coffee during the day for it not to affect your bedtime routine and have created an online tool that tells you when to drink your last cup of coffee of the day.

“The perfect time to have a cup of coffee is an individual thing and depends partly on the genes you have inherited, your lifestyle and your biorhythms, ” says Dr Brewer. “It’s never a good idea to reach for the coffee pot immediately after waking. Between 8am and 9am your body is naturally flooded with cortisol – a stress hormone that has an alerting effect and mobilises energy after your overnight fast.

“Your blood cortisol levels are highest between half an hour and two hours after waking and when your cortisol is peaking, it’s the worst time to drink coffee because caffeine mimics the stress response and causes your cortisol levels to rise even further. This disturbs your biorhythms and induces a caffeine intolerance so it is less effective later in the day.”

The perfect coffee schedule – as recommended by Dr Brewer – has been revealed below:

10:00am – first cup of the day

By now, your cortisol levels have fallen and you need an energy boost. Your genes dictate how quickly you absorb and break down coffee. Most people absorb caffeine quickly, and after drinking a cup of coffee, your blood level reaches maximum concentration almost exactly half an hour later. The length of time caffeine stays in your body varies widely, with the time taken for blood levels to fall by half varying 2 hours, 40 minutes to as long as nearly 10 hours.

2pm – an afternoon pick-me-up

Your circadian rhythms cause another cortisol peak around lunch time, with a second, smaller peak between 11:30am and 1:30pm. This is partly driven by low blood sugar levels and your need for a meal. By 2pm your cortisol levels are falling again, and the alerting effect of your first cup of coffee has worn off. 2pm is the perfect time for that second cup of coffee to set you up for the afternoon.

5pm – consider a final hit of coffee

A third, much smaller rise in cortisol peaks late in the afternoon, around 5:30pm to 6pm. If you feel like you’re flagging at 5pm, you could have a third cup of coffee if you metabolise caffeine quickly, so that it won’t interfere with sleep. If you metabolise caffeine slowly, then having it late in the afternoon may keep you tossing and turning at night.

When it comes to your sleeping pattern, caffeine can have a significant impact on your ability to fall asleep.

“Caffeine is the most widely consumed stimulant in the world and mainly works via adenosine receptors in the brain,” says Dr Brewer. “This produces an alerting effect by increasing the release of some brain chemicals. Caffeine increases focus and reduces the perception of fatigue. By blocking adenosine receptors, it prevents the relaxing responses produced by adenosine and interferes with your ability to wind down and sleep.”

With expert advice warning that coffee can have a significant impact on people’s sleeping patterns, Time 4 Sleep found out the length of time it takes for people in the UK fall asleep at night. The research revealed that a third (34%) of people take 30 minutes to an hour to fall asleep each night, but 16% said it takes them around one to two hours to nod off each night.

To help you work out the perfect time to drink your final coffee of the day, based on the time you go to bed, visit the Time 4 Sleep website and input your bedtime details.

For 5 great ways to start the day, pick up a copy of the June/July issue of Holistic Scotland Magazine.

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