Americans sure love their coffee, and now there’s more research available on the effects it has on two biggest indicators of health — sleep and exercise. With three in four Americans consuming coffee daily, and half of people drinking three to five cups each day, according to a Drive Research survey, it’s essential to determine what all those frothy lattes and strong cups of caffeine are doing to our bodies.
What Did the New Study Show About Sleep and Coffee?
A new study published in March in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed both a pro and con of coffee drinking. In the small study, 100 adult participants were monitored for 14 days, and researchers learned that those who drank coffee walked 1,000 more steps each day, but they also lost 36 minutes of sleep. This aligns with what we already know about the impacts of caffeine, that it will give you a quick boost of energy, Harvard Health reports, but that it can also impede on optimal sleep. The irony, of course, is that coffee can also make you tired.
The lead researcher, Dr. Gregory Marcus, M.D., a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, tells CNN that the finding shows that consuming coffee has more complicated consequences, not just a single outcome. In addition to studying sleep and exercise, Marcus also determined that those who drink more than one cup of coffee per day had a 50% higher incidence of premature ventricular contractions, which feels like your heart skipping a beat or fluttering. However, they didn’t find a significant increase in premature atrial contractions, which would put people at a higher risk of more serious conditions.
Most regular coffee drinkers are familiar with that fluttering feeling, which can definitely be alarming. Always ask your doctor at any regular check-up if there’s any reason to be concerned that those heart flutters aren’t a sign of something more serious. But coffee is, at least, one of the more controllable behaviors we tend to exhibit.
The Sleep Study Process
To determine the sleep, exercise, and heart changes in coffee drinkers, participants wore an electrocardiogram device, a wrist accelerometer, and a continuous glucose monitor. Through an app, the researchers collected data, also using daily text messages to instruct participants whether to drink coffee that day or not. The average age of participants was 39 years old.
True coffee aficionados might know what the study found already about sleep — that more coffee meant less sleep, and quite a bit less. Those 36 missed minutes can lead to sleep debt, especially over time, in which your body becomes increasingly exhausted, which can be hard to make up.
So, Should I Drink More Coffee So I Can Exercise More?
The short answer is, no. But, drinking coffee meant more steps, and ultimately more exercise, which can add up over time as well. Increasing your steps by 1,000 per day, or around half a mile, adds up to an almost 3.5 mile walk weekly you wouldn’t have otherwise had. This is a significant perk of coffee drinking, as even adding just 30 minutes of walking daily can increase cardio health, strengthen bones, reduce fat, and boost muscles, research shows.
The study’s findings pile onto a growing body of confusing research about whether coffee is “good” or “bad” for your health, with conflicting conclusions. A larger study of over 171,000 participants over seven years showed that drinking a moderate amount of coffee, up to 3.5 cups daily, leads to a longer life span. So, like all good, bad, and confusing vices, most doctors recommend a strong dose of moderation.