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Sleep, Performance, Coffee and… Psilocybin??

The best part of waking up…

…was mediocre drip coffee and people were plenty satisfied. These days, people are adding everything from massive amounts of fat to CBD oil and psilocybin. Yes, microdosing psychedelics are now legal in one state here in the US and coffee makers are brewing up some magical morning brew said to improve “physiological, mental and spiritual health.” Seventeen-year-old me is pumped, 38-year-old me is saying, really? We think people will do this in moderation like they “do” sugar and caffeine in moderation? Will people even make it to work? The epiphanies, the self-discovery and deep philosophical conversations with random strangers on the train; this should be interesting…

Like 90% of adults in this country I thoroughly enjoy coffee, not only for the taste but also for the immediate cognitive enhancement aka, instant gratification that turns dull into inspiring, immediately.

Does it interrupt my sleep pattern? If not consumed in moderation, at the right times, YES. Coffee can throw off my whole circadian rhythm. I honestly do better with teas like yerba mate, a more effortless pick-me-up.

What does the research say?

The research(1)tells us that caffeine is a double-edged sword. Primarily in the form of coffee, caffeine is looked at by not only athletes but also the Military Nutrition Division of the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (that’s a long one) with “substantial evidence,” as performance enhancing, improving endurance, concentration and increasing muscle strength.

On the contrary, some studies link caffeine to sleep deprivation. The findings here show that the fatigued person is more likely to consume higher amounts of caffeine which leads to interruptions in the sleep pattern which leads back to more caffeine to wake up in the morning. This is the vicious cycle that many people are wrapped up in. The percentage of Americans who sleep fewer than 6 hours a night increased from 13 – 20% from 1999 – 2009 with caffeine being a possible culprit. 

Here are some more, very interesting facts on sleep.(2)

  • Men who sleep 5 hours a night have smaller testicles than men who sleep 7 or more hours a night. Men who sleep 4 – 5 hours a night have a level of testosterone of a man 10 years their senior. (got my attention!) There are similar effects in female reproductive health.
  • Sleep loss and the cardiovascular system; when we lose an hour for daylight savings in the springtime we see a 24% increase of heart attacks. On the contrary when we gain an hour in the fall we see a 21% decrease in heart attacks. These statistics are exactly the same for car crashes, road traffic accidents and suicide rates!
  • Deep sleep brain waves act like a file transfer mechanism at night, shifting memories from short-term to long-term reservoir.
  • The World Health Organization classified any form of nighttime shift work as a probable carcinogen because of a disruption of sleep wave rhythms
  • The genes associated with the immune system were switched off with lack of sleep; as well as genes associated with tumors, stress and cardiovascular disease.

Many things can cause sleep deprivation and one can certainly improve cognitive and physical performance without caffeine. For those athletic types, one suggestion is to limit caffeine in your downtime in order to get the maximum benefits when you need it most, during training and competition.


Know this, caffeine is the fastest acting stimulant drug known to man. Like any other drug, we need to be cognizant of its effects, good and bad, and also look more closely at our intentions while consuming it.

If you are one that is caught up in the vicious cycle of being sleep deprived as well as dependent on coffee everyday, I challenge you to switch over to drinking only green tea or yerba mate no later than 3:00pm for 30 days and see how you feel.

A couple tips for good sleep suggested by Matthew Walker (check out his TED Talk: Sleep is Your Superpower):

  • Regularity! Go to bed and wake up at same time.
  • Keep your bedroom cool! The body needs to drop temperature to fall asleep and stay asleep, around 65 degrees.

(1)Risk Manag Healthc Policy. 2018; 11: 263–271. Published online 2018 Dec 7. doi: 10.2147/RMHP.S156404

(2) Matthew Walker scientist and professor of neuroscience and psychology Book: Why We Sleep TED: Sleep is Your Superpower