Can’t seem to shake yourself out of that foggy morning haze until you sip your cup of early morning coffee? Perhaps it’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning, or part of your re-energising mid-afternoon routine to kick that 3pm-itis (we feel you). Scientific research has been done to figure out the best time we should be drinking coffee to reap its full benefits and fit in with our natural circadian cycle.
Scientific research suggests, however, that there is actually an optimal time of day to be drinking coffee for the best effects. It’s all to do with cortisol levels.
Cortisol is a stress hormone released by your adrenal glands. When present, it will make you feel alert, ready for any stressors. Without it, you’ll feel more sleepy, not unlike the effects of caffeine. Cortisol levels peak periodically throughout the day, depending on when you wake up. Everyone’s cycle is therefore different. You may notice yourself feeling tired at the same time every day, because cortisol levels rise and fall depending on your circadian rhythm.
Neuroscientist Steven L. Miller from the School of Medicine in Dartmouth points out that drinking coffee whilst your cortisol levels are already high is redundant. The effect of caffeine whilst your body is already naturally alert will only make you more stressed.
So, how do you figure out your natural rhythm?
Your cortisol levels peak about an hour and a half after you wake up. They rise again about four hours later, and then again another four or five hours later. Cortisol levels usually peak for one hour periods. For someone who rises at around 6:30am, they would experience natural peaks at:
8 am – 9am
12pm – 1pm
5:30pm – 6:30pm
If you work the 9-5 grind and are waking up early, the best time to drink your coffee would be somewhere between 9:30am and 11:30am. For an afternoon hit, a second around 2-3pm should do the trick. If caffeine tends to keep you awake at night, however, perhaps avoid the afternoon cuppa.
If you feel like you drink coffee but still get tired throughout your day, try changing your coffee habits to match your natural rhythm and reap those super-charging benefits,