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The truth about Caffeine as a sleep-deprived parent

The best ways to feel energised as an exhausted parent

What's happening to your body as a sleep-deprived parent?

When you have less than 5 hours of sleep, it is the equivalent of being drunk.

This means your brain and body are working slower. It can make, decision-making, concentration, mood and energy levels lower.

This sluggish feeling can make other self-care activities like eating well and exercising difficult, not to mention working and caring for others!

Relationships can become strained as your body works hard to manage your brain and homeostatic functions at a basic survival level.

We often all need some caffeine to perk us up and get us through the day.

With busier lives than ever, adding small children who aren't sleeping so well to your plate can really impact your alertness.

It's easy to think that reaching for another coffee might be the solution, but actually, this might not always be the best answer!

When should you drink caffeine?

It can be really tempting to open your eyes and reach for the coffee machine. But resisting this immediate drive for a boost of energy can have a more positive impact on your overall daytime energy levels and prevent big spikes and drops in energy levels.

Waiting 90 to 120 minutes from the time you wake up before your first intake of caffeine allows your body to establish a good level of adenosine.

Adenosine is a chemical found in the body and is involved in making us feel more sleepy. When adenosine levels grow or drive to sleep also increases.

What does caffeine do?

Caffeine basically binds to the receptors on our cells that detect adenosine and mean that these cells can't bind, this stops us from feeling tiredness but it doesn't stop the tiredness (high levels of adenosine) from being there!

In the short term this can feel beneficial as we don't feel so tired.

The time you drink caffeine can really impact your body and the level of tiredness you feel.

When you wake in the morning the levels of Adenosine have been lowered by sleep but they continue to drop for around the next 2 hours until they reach their lowest level. As a parent, if you are tired or woken up early, naturally, these levels of adenosine are going to be higher than others might be.

Generally, you will feel energised at this 2-hour mark after waking up. If you can delay your caffeine intake until then, it will mean that blocking adenosine when the levels are at their lowest will allow your energy to peak and maintain for the longest duration.

Having caffeine before this will just result in your adenosine levels growing and growing which can result in an afternoon slump.

A good caffeine window for someone waking at 7 am would be 9 am to 1 or 2 pm.

How long does caffeine last?

99% of caffeine is absorbed by the body in the first 45 minutes after ingesting it. It is concentrated in the blood for up to 2 hours depending on lots of factors, including diet and fitness. After it is absorbed it is distributed around the body.

The half-life of caffeine is around 5 hours but it can last between 1.5 to 9.5 hours in the system, meaning individuals will be affected differently and this can drastically impact sleep if ingested close to sleep times.

It might be worth recording your own sleep and caffeine intake in a sleep diary to see how you are impacted. I know personally that caffeine doesn't impact my sleep too badly if my intake is before 3 pm, but I really do feel the caffeine high so I have to be careful about how much I drink!

"Caffeine doesn't impact me."

It does!

There is loads of research that evidences that caffeine has a big impact on your body and mind; you might just not feel that so much anymore, and it might be worth going on a detox or maintaining this window of caffeine intake.

Check out this video for a great explanation.

What happens to the body?

Check out Health Lines Full article on Caffeine here.

The tiredness antidote

Unfortunately, the antidote for sleep deprivation is often to get up and keep going!

  • Fresh air

  • Exercise

  • Healthy eating

  • Drinking plenty of water

  • Less caffeine

  • Vitamin and mineral supplements

  • Daylight

  • Early bedtimes or naps, where possible, can help to top up your sleep tank.

  • Planning tasks and snacks ahead of time so as to prevent unhelpful choices

  • Preparing meals for the freezer to get you through the evening.

  • Setting screen time limits on your phone settings to prevent getting sucked into the void! (I find this really hard)

  • Asking a friend or relative for some help to give you the opportunity to rest or be supported when feeling exhausted.

  • Be gentle on yourself and your body.

  • Seek professional help. This may be with your mental health or your child's sleep.

Sleep Well,


The Little Sleep Company


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