You can imagine my disappointment, as an avid coffee drinker, when I realised that once I cut my coffee assumption in half, my sleep drastically improved.

I frantically started researching, and I made a startling discovery: caffeine has a half-life of six or seven hours, and a quarter-life of 12 hours. This means that if you drink a cup of coffee at noon, a quarter of it is still circulating around your body at midnight. That’s like chugging a quarter of a Starbucks flat white when you go to bed, expecting to fall asleep.

Nordic countries consistently have the highest coffee consumption per capita in the world; Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden are all in the top ten. Is there a link between sleep problems and our coffee culture? You’d need a very thorough study to find out, but the fact that caffeine radically decreases the quality of deep sleep has already been proven.

In my experience, the less good-quality sleep I get, the more I reach for that lovely, black drink – which only decreases the quality of my sleep even more, leading me to become increasingly dependent on my fix.

But there are, on the other hand, also an array of health benefits from drinking coffee. It’s good for the liver, it improves energy levels and reaction times, and it may decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. Then again, doesn’t sleep provide those very same benefits?

I still love coffee. I love the taste of it, the smell of it, and the sound of my coffee machine brewing. Perhaps it’s about balance. And maybe, just maybe, if Scandinavians cut their coffee intake just a tad, they would find themselves more well-rested in the morning – and instead of depending on coffee to get through the day, it could be something simply but truly enjoyable: an actual coffee break.

Heidi Kokborg is a journalist and health coach from Denmark. She runs her own online business and writes a column for Scan Magazine about health and wellness in Scandinavia.


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