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How to sleep better and still enjoy coffee

I’m in the middle of reading the excellent and widely celebrated Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.

There’s a whole chapter on caffeine that I wasn’t looking forward to reading because I drink a lot of coffee.

What’s the problem with caffeine?

It tricks you into thinking you’re not tired by blocking your brain’s adenosine receptors whose job is to tell you you’re sleepy and will be overcome by “an irresistible urge for slumber”. No wonder Walker describes caffeine as “the most widely used (and abused) psychoactive stimulant in the world… the largest, unsupervised drug”.

Relying on it regularly to stay awake contributes to our sleep debt. And this can have a devastating impact on our health.

All made perfect sense to me as I hadn’t been sleeping that well and, since I’d run out of coffee, I ordered some nice decaf on a whim.

I still allowed myself a cup of tea first thing (I’m only human) but then it was decaf coffee for the rest of the day or, in my case, the morning (rarely feel like coffee in the afternoon).

Wins? 

Now the five-day withdrawal headache has subsided I can summarise as follows:

  • Decaf can taste fantastic if it’s decent coffee to start with (thanks Hasbean / Climpson’s / Curve to name a few) and roasted and brewed properly (I use Kalita or V60)
  • If a big part of your enjoyment in coffee is in the brewing as much as the drinking, as it is with me, decaf is just as good
  • The urge to make/drink a coffee every 30 minutes for the first 4 hours of the day (7am-11am) has lessened
  • I’m brewing and drinking coffee less often, saving time and money (see above)
  • While the flavour in the cup is delicious, the effect of decaf doesn’t excite me in the same way as non-decaf version. I’m no longer bouncing over to the kettle every half an hour. But this is also a good thing (see above)
  • Am I sleeping better? Probably too early to notice a pattern but I definitely feel more tired in the evening because the build up of adenosine in my brain is telling me to go to bed (sometimes I actually do)
  • Is it easier to get up in the morning? Not really (see above) but going to bed earlier helps. Rocket science? Nope!
  • Will I continue with this experiment? Yes, for now. I’ve got 500g freshly roasted Huila decaf that tastes of cherry drops and caramel sweets to get through and I’m darned if I’m wasting a bean

Would love to hear your thoughts and any decaf recommendations.

Decaf coffee

Decaf coffee – just as tasty