Caffeine and It’s Effects On Sleep

Michael Pollan might be one of the only human beings NOT on caffeine.



He is well known for his 2018 book How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.

Pollan is a man that doesn’t shy away from challenging his mind and body to go “against the grain.”

His most recent audible book, Caffeine, piggy backs off his first book by delving into a state of being that most of us are so used to perpetually being in, we don’t even realize we’re in it.

“Until you get off caffeine, you don’t realize how universal that existence is,” the food and botany specialist explains in an interview with The Wallstreet Journal. He continues to explain that caffeine is so common in so many different foods and drinks, the general population hardly notices its profound effects - particularly on one’s sleep.

For research purposes, Pollan embarked on a 3 month caffeine hiatus In which he describes feeling “out of tune with the rest of civilization” due to feeling less focused and in a perpetual state of hazy.

However, with that haziness came the massive benefit of a good night’s sleep. Within just a couple of days from abstaining from caffeine, the author admits, “I was sleeping like a teenager again. It was the only upside I could see, and it was a big one. It was wonderful to have these deep, dream-filled sleeps.”

In his interview with the Wall Street Journal, Pollan broaches the following topics regarding his experience with caffeine:How does caffeine affect our sleep?

It appears to take its toll on Slow Wave Sleep, which is a short (but critical) period in the deep stages of R.E.M. that humans need to reset our brains and to resynchronize neuron activity.

If caffeine is sleep’s enemy, what are sleep’s friends?

“Quiet and cold. The lower our body temperature, the better we sleep.” Also, the absence of screens and stress is critical for quality sleep.

How did ‘sleeping like a teenager’ affect your waking life?

“If you have a good night’s sleep, you often have a better day. Even the nights that my Oura Ring [a smart device tracking sleep quality] told me I had a crappy night’s sleep, I’d wake up feeling great,” Pollan explains. He did, however, qualify this statement by emphasizing none of this was based on actual data but his own, personal experience.

Do you find that wine or any alcohol affects your sleep?

“A small amount of wine isn’t a problem, but if I have more than two glasses, I’m more likely to wake up and less likely to wake up [in the morning] feeling sharp. If caffeine messes with Slow Wave Sleep, alcohol seems to mess with our REM sleep, when we do the most dreaming.”

But my morning coffee is such a key part of my day.

It’s everything,” Pollan agrees. “It’s not just the [caffeine] molecule. Those ceremonies we have around coffee are wonderful. During the 3 months I was off caffeine, I would get my chamomile tea, but I didn’t feel like I was part of the coffee culture.” In other words, the addictive nature of coffee might have less to do with caffeine’s affects and more to do with the rituals surrounding it.”

What are your favorite ways to get your caffeine?

“Coffee and green tea. I usually drink green tea while I’m working, which is a very even caffeine experience—you don’t see that bell curve. I’ll have a cup of half-caff after that. Chocolate is another wonderful delivery system for caffeine and other alkalides.”

In the end, Pollan appears to not have a huge opinion regarding caffeine - one way or the other. However, if you have sleeping issues, you may want to consider going on a caffeine hiatus to improve deep sleep.

by Mcclain W

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