Best Time To Drink Coffee? How Late Is Too Late?

What’s the latest we should consume caffeine? Well, the answer might be bad news for those of you who love a cup of coffee after dinner…

April 27, 2024
An alarm clock designed like a coffee cup, indicating it is ringing.

It’s the eternal question — is it too late for another cup of coffee? Well, the experts say your last cup of coffee should be between six to eight hours before you go to bed.

However, many of us drink coffee a lot later than that and have no problem going to sleep. So, with this thought in mind, what's the latest we should drink coffee and what factors come into play? Let's dive in and find out more. 

When Should You Stop Drinking Coffee?

There’s no black-and-white answer to when you should stop drinking coffee or any other caffeinated beverage. To determine what’s best for you, here’s what you need to consider.

1. Your Schedule

The experts say to avoid coffee starting 6-8 hours before bedtime, ideally longer [1]. 

Many people say you shouldn’t drink coffee in the afternoon or after 2 p.m. This is great advice if you work a standard 9-5 schedule and go to bed by 10 p.m. However, if you’re a shift worker, freelancer, or night owl, this doesn’t necessarily work for you.

If you tend to go to bed at midnight, the six-to-eight-hour rule means you can still drink coffee as late as 6 p.m. It’s all about working it out based on your schedule. If you don't get up until 3 p.m. because you work nights, having a guideline that you can only have your last cup of coffee at 4 p.m. isn't going to work for you.

2. Your Tolerance

One of the biggest influencers on how late is too late for coffee is going to be your personal tolerance for caffeine. In some countries, coffee culture is big, so it’s common to have a cup after an evening meal or at a social outing with friends. 

For instance, many people can have an espresso after a large meal, and the caffeine boosts levels out the sluggish, heavy feeling from the meal. 

The more you drink coffee, the more your body gets used to having caffeine in your system. You won’t be as affected by it if you drink coffee later in the day. This might sound like a good thing, but caffeine can still mess with your sleep, even if it doesn’t keep you awake at bedtime. 

How Does Caffeine Impact Sleep?

Experts usually suggest curbing your caffeine intake before bed because the quality of sleep won't be as good — not necessarily because it'll keep you awake [1].

If there’s still caffeine in your system when you go to sleep,you’re less likely to have those deep REM sleep cycles that our body needs to rest and recuperate. When we’re in that REM sleep, our brain has the time and focus to recover from the day's events and stresses. That’s why you can often wake up feeling sluggish and need to reach for another cup of coffee as soon as you wake up — it’s because your body hasn’t really rested to its fullest.

In fact, despite it taking between 45-60 minutes for the caffeine to peak in your system, the half-life of caffeine is actually 3-5 hours, so the caffeine has reduced by half in that time. Overall, caffeine can stay in your system for twelve hours or more. For people with caffeine sensitivity, it could be days.

So, although you might be able to get to sleep after having a late-night espresso, you might not have the best sleep of your life. How late is too late for coffee? Realistically, if you want a good night’s sleep, you want to have your last cup no later than six hours before bedtime.

It’s important to note that some coffees are higher in caffeine than others. For example, if you drink our 100% robusta beans, you may want to stop drinking coffee a little earlier since they have almost twice as much caffeine as our arabica beans

Does Decaf Coffee Affect Sleep?

Decaffeinated coffee still has caffeine, albeit very little. It has to be at least 97% caffeine-free to be considered decaf, which means there can be around 7 mg of coffee per 8-oz cup. While that’s a far cry from the 75 mg or so in a regular cup, is it enough to mess with your sleep schedule?

Fortunately, no. Decaf coffee does not seem to disrupt sleep patterns (though it does taste slightly different!) [2]. Unless you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine, decaf should be fine even right up to bed time. 

FAQs: Coffee & Sleep

Now that we’ve found out how late is too late for coffee, let’s finish off this guide with some frequently asked questions about coffee and sleep.

1. Should I drink decaf coffee before bed?

Honestly, if you want your coffee fix and it’s late at night, reach for the decaf option. Even if you have a high caffeine tolerance, the effects of sleeping with caffeine in your system are not great for your well-being. While you might find getting to sleep to be no issue, the quality of sleep may not be ideal, and there’s a good chance you’ll wake up feeling groggy. 

2. Can I use coffee for a power nap?

Yes, you can use coffee for a power nap, but it does tend to confuse your body’s sleep cycle or circadian rhythm. Some people have a coffee and then force themselves to nap because the caffeine in the coffee takes around 45-60 minutes to hit its peak, giving you the perfect opportunity for a short nap.

3. Why do people have coffee after a meal?

So, if you’re on holiday in Europe or in the Middle East, it’s really common to see people drinking coffee late at night, and especially after dinner in restaurants. This is because coffee is thought to help your digestion [3], so if a meal is particularly heavy or filling, it helps you feel more relief before heading home to bed. However, there’s definitely a social aspect to having coffee after a meal and making the evening last a little longer! 

4. Does coffee cause insomnia?

If you have a high amount of coffee throughout the day and for a prolonged period, your chances of insomnia symptoms can increase. This is all to do with the adenosine receptors in your brain. These receptors are responsible for your sleep-wake cycle, but caffeine actually blocks them, causing a disruption in your natural circadian rhythm.

5. Can coffee wake you up in the night?

In some cases, having coffee late in the day can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night. This is likely because the caffeine in your system is preventing you from having deeper sleep quality, so you're just averaging light sleep, which is easily broken by small noises, changes in temperature, movement, and more. 


  1. Gardiner, C., Weakley, J., Burke, L. M., Roach, G. D., Sargent, C., Maniar, N., ... & Halson, S. L. (2023). The effect of caffeine on subsequent sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep medicine reviews, 69, 101764.
  2. O'Callaghan, F., Muurlink, O., & Reid, N. (2018). Effects of caffeine on sleep quality and daytime functioning. Risk management and healthcare policy, 11, 263–271.
  3. Karacan, I., Thornby, J. I., Anch, A. M., Booth, G. H., Williams, R. L., & Salis, P. J. (1976). Dose‐related sleep disturbances induced by coffee and caffeine. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 20(6), 682-689.
  4. Smith, A. P., Rusted, J. M., Eaton-Williams, P., Savory, M., & Leathwood, P. (1990). Effects of caffeine given before and after lunch on sustained attention. Neuropsychobiology, 23(3), 160–163.