Cafecito Diaries #3: Why Abuelita Warned You About Coffee and Insomnia

During the cafecitos my aunts like to host, there is always one aunt (it’s usually my Tia Rosa) who will turn down a delicious cup of warm café de olla with the pretext that the caffeine in the one cup will keep her up the whole night. Everybody hears her rant about how coffee keeps her up at night but we low-key turn a deaf-ear at the exaggeration in her excuse. We all know someone whose sleep has been drastically impacted by caffeine. But, we also know people who can drink coffee excessively after-hours and will still get their beauty sleep. What can we learn here?

Caffeine found in coffee stimulates adrenaline cells in our brain, while at the same time, blocks out the sleep-inducing chemicals that try to put our brains back into "tired" mode. In return, this makes us jittery so that we stay awake for a few hours. It then takes about six hours to get rid of half of the caffeine we consume until our brain is finally able to revert itself back to normal state. You know that instant rush of excitement you might feel on the Christmas morning, the one that makes you jump out of bed and wipes out any trace of sleepiness? Our sleepy brains go through this same rush when we revitalize with a cup of coffee. It’s also true that not all people are affected by coffee in this way. There are some studies that suggest some people have pure “caffeine genes” which are more resistant to the effects of caffeine; however, your resistance can also depend on many other factors beyond genes such as drinking large amounts of water to flush it out of your system.

Because caffeine causes our sleep schedule to shift over a couple hours, sleep will only come once our brain clock catches up to our body clock, or once the remaining effect of the caffeine has been flushed out of our system -- literally. Eventually, our system remembers what time of the day it is and we knock out.

For coffee addicts, too much caffeine can have the same effect as too little caffeine. You see, caffeine is like a drug, therefore, we can also experience withdrawal and insomnia as a major side effect. Too much caffeine can lead to an unhealthy chemical, emotional, and psychological reliance on a substance to maintain our rhythms.

A warm cup of coffee on a winter night sounds like an awesome way to finish off the day. But next time make sure you don’t make the same mistake I did and don’t drink it too late on a Sunday night… believe me, Mondays are already bad enough!

There are myths revolving around coffee, some are true, some are partially true and others are totally off. We’ve all had our funny encounters with the wide variety of coffee myths and I encourage you to comment below any of the weird ones you’ve heard. My own family always surprises me with ones they come up (and they’ve got some scary ones up their sleeves), but I just listen intently… while I blow into the cup of coffee I’m holding. Regardless, a cafecito is worth the risk and it can do wonders when we drink it wisely.

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