For all of those avid coffee drinkers out there, this question has probably come up. What effect, if any, does caffeine have on my dreams?
A good majority of coffee drinkers will tell you that caffeine produces no detrimental sleep problems; they have built up a tolerance to caffeine which allows them to drink it whenever they want, and still fall asleep without much trouble. But if we look deeper we will find some underlying effects.
Caffeine is known to increase the production of a hormone called cortisol. It’s often created by the body in high-risk situations because it enhances alertness/awareness. A person not in a stressful situation when producing extra cortisol will experience negative effects like stress and anxiety. Of course, the most popular example of a low-stress situation that we engage in all the time is sleeping. For a person attempting to sleep with high levels of cortisol, the best case scenario would be a very light sleep while the worst case would be the development of insomnia.
Studies show a decrease in the quality of sleep for those who drink coffee regularly —which is definitely the case for most. But it doesn’t always mean they don’t sleep through the night. Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it can abstain your body from entering deeper stages of sleep. For example, a coffee drinker could fall asleep quickly and stay asleep throughout the night, but they might only be in a very light stage of sleep. So naturally, their 8 hours of rest might only feel like 5, and their body will feel extra tired during the day in order to revert back to normal sleep patterns.
But what does this have to do with dreams? Well, there is a stage of sleep where you are most likely to have dreams — especially ones you recall. This stage is called REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and, naturally, it’s the deepest stage of sleep. Coffee drinkers — and particularly those who drink coffee right before bed — have not given their bodies a chance to get rid of the stimulant which causes their body to stay in light stages of sleep. If the body can’t enter stage 3/Delta sleep, then it won’t be able to enter REM, thus causing dreams to be prevented.
For those who take a break from coffee for a few days, vivid dreams could occur because there is no longer a stimulant blocking their passageway into REM sleep.
Has coffee effected the way that you dream in any way?