Caffeine and Sugar: Why These Energy Boosters Are Poor Substitutes for Sleep

Coffee will get you through a long day, but you might pay for it by lying awake at night.


caffeine-sugar

When you're living with less sleep than your body needs to operate, it's tempting to go the easy route and keep yourself alert with caffeine and sugar. But these quick fixes can make things worse in the long run.

Sugar brings a quick crash
Sugar can give you a temporary energy boost, but when that "high" wears off, you may become even sleepier and slower to react, according to a 2006 study from England's Loughborough University.

"Sugar is not the best way to stimulate the brain," says Ralph Downey III, PhD, director of the Loma Linda University Sleep Disorders Center in California. "It doesn't have the value that caffeine does for the short boost."

For a boost to get you through the day, you're better off with a small snack; aim for a combination of protein and carbohydrates, like an apple with peanut butter. But don't eat too much: A full stomach can make you even more tired.

Caffeine is a sleep stealer
Caffeine—and coffee in particular—poses the opposite problem. Within 15 minutes of drinking a cup, you'll have the jolt of energy you were looking for. But since caffeine can stay in your system for 12 hours, its effects continue long after your latte is gone.

That's why experts recommend quitting coffee altogether if you have difficulty sleeping at night, or at least stopping after your morning cup. Soda and chocolate generally contain less caffeine than coffee, but if you are sensitive to even small amounts, they can cause problems—especially in excess or too close to bedtime.


12 Next
Gail Belsky
Last Updated: October 16, 2008

Get the latest health, fitness, anti-aging, and nutrition news, plus special offers, insights and updates from Health.com!

More Ways to Connect with Health
Advertisement