Despite being a predominantly tea drinking nation, here in the UK we’re still partial to a cup of coffee.
Research into the nation’s coffee drinking habits has revealed that the UK is crazy about caffeine, with people consuming three cups per day on average.
Yet when it comes to drinking your first cup of the day, 82 per cent of people have been found to consume their morning coffee at the wrong time.
When should we be drinking coffee?
According to health expert, Doctor Sarah Brewer, the first cup of the day should be drunk no earlier than 10am – much later than the national average time of 8:30am.
Brewer worked in partnership with bed and sleep specialist, Time 4 Sleep, to create a tool which tells you exactly when you should be drinking coffee during the day, so as not to affect your quality of sleep.
“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,” explains.
“It’s never a good idea to reach for the coffee pot immediately after waking, as 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. When your cortisol is peaking, it’s the worst time to drink coffee because the caffeine mimics the stress response, causing these 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
10am: First cup of the day
By now, your cortisol levels have fallen and you need an energy boost.
Most people absorb caffeine quickly, and after drinking a cup of coffee your blood level reaches maximum concentration almost exactly half an hour later.
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, making it the perfect time for that second cup 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 at 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.
A bedtime coffee routine
Despite coffee being one of the nation’s favourite drinks, consuming caffeine late at night can disrupt your sleeping pattern and hinder your ability to fall asleep.
“Caffeine is the most widely consumed stimulant in the world and mainly works via adenosine receptors in the brain, which produce an alerting effect by increasing the release of some chemicals in the brain,” explains Brewer.
“By blocking these receptors, coffee prevents the relaxing responses produced by adenosine, and interferes with your ability to wind down and sleep.”