Everybody knows that a cup of coffee before sleep will keep you awake, and a glass of red wine will put you away, but a new study by the Sleep Research Society reveals that while red wine may make you drowsy, it comes at a steep price to your sleep quality. More surprisingly, it found that caffeine may not affect sleep deprivation in any serious way, at all.
The research studied the evening consumption of alcohol, nicotine and caffeinated drinks of 785 people over a combined period of 5,164 days, tracking the duration and quality of sleep through the use of actigraphy (a method of monitoring sleep through worn sensors) and participants’ own sleep diaries.
What they found, surprisingly enough, was that nicotine and alcohol actually had a far greater detrimental effect on participants’ sleep cycles compared to caffeine.
Drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming nicotine in any form 4 hours before sleep was associated with fragmentary sleep, with nicotine having a severe effect on people reported suffering from insomnia, and was associated with a loss of about 40 minutes’ worth of sleep.
And it’s not necessarily cigarettes that keep you awake, either. The problems with nicotine arise when the body begins hankering for a fix while you’re still asleep, leading you to wake up earlier than you intended to.
Meanwhile, alcohol could cause permanent damage to our circadian sleep cycle through altering genes related to our biological clock, also causing chronic inflammation and liver disease, as demonstrated in a 2015 paper.
And while caffeine definitely gets a bad rap as an inducer of sleep deprivation, the researchers could find no connection between consumption of caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and tea and poor sleep quality.
This challenges many of the assumptions we have about caffeine consumption, but for the time being, it’s safe to say that so long as you don’t overdo it, a cup of coffee shouldn’t actually keep you from getting a good shut-eye.
For a good night’s sleep, you would be best advised to set the cigarettes aside, and maybe settle for a hot cup of tea for a nightcap and keep the pinot noir for the occasional dinner.