Photo by Moyan Brenn

Early morning not the best time to drink coffee

Photo by Moyan Brenn

Photo by Moyan Brenn

In the US alone there are an estimated 100 million daily coffee drinkers, each contributing to a booming $18 billion industry. Of these, 68% claim they have their first coffee within the first hour of waking up. As a coffee drinker, I find myself guilty of the same practice, but apparently this isn’t the best time to enjoy your coffee. Why? Because there’s a big chance you’re wasting it, even though you might feel like it’s giving you that big slamming kick to start off the day.

Every person has his up and downs during a day, whether we’re talking about productivity, mood or energy. These swings are caused by the circadian clock – an  internal 24-hour clock  that alters your physiology and behavior by modifying your biological rhythm. The circadian clock is governed by the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that contains a number of small nuclei with a variety of functions. Most importantly, the hypothalamus is responsible for certain metabolic processes and other activities of the autonomic nervous system.

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But how does the hypothalamus knows how to regulate time and thus send signals that affect our biology, like telling us when its to go to sleep for instance? Through interactions with the sun of course. Previously it was shown that there exist connections between the retina and hypothalamus (the retinohypothalamic tract), so direct sensory input, in our case light, influences the body. But you probably already know this, innately – you don’t need to know the science to feel the effects. Ok, but how does this relate to coffee? We’re getting there.

Your circadian clock controls your metabolism function of the time of day, including alertness. Alertness is related to cortisol (the stress hormone). Cortisol blood levels peak between 8 and 9 AM, then again between noon to 1 PM, and between 5:30 to 6:30 PM. So, basically you are already on full alert naturally in the very first hour of the morning and drinking coffee during this time makes consumption inefficient. Instead, the best time of the day to enjoy your coffee would probably between 9:30 AM and 11:30 AM, when your cortisol levels are dropping before the next spike.

Tip via NeuroscienceDC

3 thoughts on “Early morning not the best time to drink coffee

  1. tibipuiu

    Nope, but from your link it says caffeine absorption begins after 15-20 minutes, with saturation earliest 40 minutes or so. This is a valid point, however the idea is to stay on the safe side and exploit coffee energy boasts when you most need it :)

  2. Loreli

    The article assumes that my “first hour of the day” starts at 8am. Unfortunately, I usually have to be at work earlier than that so if I have my coffee when I first wake up – anytime between 5:30 to 6 AM – then I’m just in time for that natural burst 2-3 hours later. Still, the information in the article is interesting and helpful despite the “early morning” semantic issue. It made me wonder about the circadian clock… do you think it is affected by lack of exposure to actual sun light? Typically, during the winter I am leaving before or near sunrise and getting home after sunset. Now that it’s frowned upon to take an actual lunch break much less coffee breaks I’m hardly ever outside during the daytime which is a real drag.

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