Whether it’s to wake yourself up for the working day or relax into weekend mode, many of us consider coffee an integral part of the morning routine.
Coffee has ingrained itself in the mechanisms of so many people’s early morning routines. There is something romantic about brewing a carafe, or holding a freshly bought cup close, first thing. There is also something practical about it: Sipping piping hot caffeine as soon as possible prepares us for the day — or, at the very least, for the coming few hours.
But drinking coffee shortly after waking up, as it turns out, is actually a bit counterproductive. Not only does it undermine the caffeine’s effect, but it tends to lead people to build a tolerance for the drug, thereby diminishing its effect down the road.
Our bodies produce a hormone called cortisol, which has been branded the “stress hormone,” because it tends to appear when we are either stressed or fearful. But that same hormone is also a key component of our natural, day-long hormonal cycle, known as the circadian clock, which helps wake us up in the morning and wind us down at night. The gist is that when our body releases cortisol, we feel more awake.
And that time is first thing in the morning, when cortisol levels are highest.
First, caffeine tends to interfere with the production of cortisol. The body then produces less of the hormone and relies more on the caffeine.
Second, drinking coffee while cortisol is high leads us to develop long-term tolerances for caffeine, which is why so many habitual coffee drinkers say it has less of an effect on them.
Between those hours,10 a.m. and noon, and 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., the coffee is actually most needed, and, perhaps most importantly, will not interfere with our body’s own essential mechanism for keeping us alert.