"What are the impacts on your energy and stress levels by having coffee within the first 10 minutes of waking up? Is this really bad for you?”
This was a recent question I got asked. Caffeine may well be one of the topics I get asked most about during my Fuel for Success talks. I’ve learnt a lot over the years from studying and reading, but also talking with Dr Charlotte Elsworth Edelsten, the sleep doctor we work with.
In general I recommend that you wait at least an hour after waking up to have your first caffeine hit of the day. This is for a couple of reasons:
Coffee is a stimulant, it gets us going. Which can be useful in the right setting. But in the morning time our cortisol levels (one of our stress hormones) are naturally at their highest when we first wake up. This helps us to actually get up in the mornings. When we add a coffee straight off the bat, it’s a little bit like being woken up with a bucket of cold water to the face, not pleasant for the body and it can send our cortisol levels skyrocketing. One reason why some people can experience anxiety post coffee first thing.
Instead I tend to prioritise that first hour of the day focusing on two things; hydration and natural light.
As we’ve been sleeping our body’s naturally become dehydrated. We need to replenish the body with water first thing to also get the body, and our hormones, going. In that first hour I try to get 0.5-1L of water in me as I’m going about my morning routine. This is a habit I personally incorporated a few years ago and started to see a big difference in my morning energy levels.
Another reason people tend to grab that coffee straight away is because they feel half asleep still. This to me is usually a sign that they perhaps aren’t getting the greatest nights sleep, either quality or quantity wise. And that’s where part two of the morning routine comes in, natural light.
Natural light, outside, even on the bleakest of London mornings, plays a massively important part in regulating our circadian rhythm, which in turn plays a big role in regulating when we’re alert and awake and when we’re sleepy and ready for bed. Getting out even just for 10-15 mins early in the day, and exposing yourself to swathes of natural light, sends a signal to the brain that this is the time to be awake and alert. The more often we do this the more that message starts to get reenforced in the brain, and the bigger the impact on our morning energy levels.
My advice for that morning stint? Prioritise water, natural light and allow your body to slowly rev into action.
Save that first coffee for when you get into the office, or once you’ve had breakfast and settled in to the home office.