Gina Florio
March 06, 2017 3:37 pm

We’ve all been there before: It’s 3 p.m. in the afternoon and your concentration is wavering. You’ve had quite a few coffees already, but you feel like you absolutely need another coffee to get you through the rest of the day. This is a painful crossroads that will sound familiar to any coffee drinker, leaving us all with the million dollar question — when should you stop drinking coffee during the day in order to get a good night’s sleep?

Although there are a few people out there who are hardly affected by caffeine at all, the majority of us are only human and we get wired from too many cups of coffee. Then we end up tossing and turning all night long, unable to catch our beauty sleep from all the misplaced energy. If this has happened to you one too many times, you’re in the right hands. Allow us to tell you when you should cut off your coffee supply for the day in order to achieve rewarding sleep.

Researchers from the Sleep Disorders & Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital and Wayne State College of Medicine surveyed 12 men and women on their coffee intake and subsequent sleep patterns. They found that even when people stopped drinking coffee 6 hours before they went to bed, up to an hour of their sleep was negatively affected. Surprisingly enough, the people who had their last cup of joe 6 hours before snoozing reported that their sleep wasn’t affected, but the sleep monitor told a completely different story. Even when you don’t think coffee affects your sleep, it could be wrecking it without you knowing.

Of course, coffee is going to affect each person differently, so there isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all rule of cut-off time, but you’re probably better off closing the coffee door at 2 p.m. That gives you more than enough time for your body to process the caffeine, so you’re much more likely to fall asleep easily and sleep straight through the night.

You may have heard different accounts as to when caffeine actually leaves your system. The reports range from 1.5 hours to 9.5 hours, depending on the person. But here’s the truth: 50 percent of caffeine leaves your system within 5 hours, and it takes a whole day and a half for the caffeine to leave the body entirely. Obviously, that doesn’t mean you’ll be wide awake for 2 days straight, but it does give you an idea of the power of caffeine. It stays in your system for a pretty long time.

Just as important as when you drink your coffee is how much coffee you drink each day. Experts say we really shouldn’t be having more than 400 mg of caffeine a day, which roughly equals 4 glorious cups of coffee. The number one side effect of people who drink anymore than that is, you guessed it, insomnia. So even if you do cut off your coffee flow at 2 p.m., that wouldn’t make much a difference if you’ve already tossed back 6 coffees that day.

If you’re a coffee addict who’s been having some trouble sleeping lately, start with 2 p.m. as your cutoff time and go from there. Lorelai Gilmore may not approve, but we won’t tell on you, we promise.