Reviewed by the BioHackers Lab Team | Last updated: June 11, 2023

Decaf coffee contains significantly less caffeine than regular coffee, but it may still affect your sleep if consumed close to bedtime, particularly if you are sensitive to caffeine. To ensure a good night’s sleep, it is best to avoid any coffee consumption completely before bedtime.

Man struggling to fall asleep with a cup of coffee in front of him

Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Decaf coffee contains 97% less caffeine than regular coffee.
  • On average, an 8-ounce cup of decaf still contains up to 7 milligrams of caffeine.
  • The small amount of caffeine isn’t really enough to affect most people’s sleep.
  • Fast metabolizers of coffee are individuals with genetic variations in the CYP1A2 gene that allow them to break down caffeine more quickly and are less sensitive to caffeine. Others are slow metabolizers of coffee and would benefit from less coffee or decaf coffee.
  • It takes 4-6 hours for the effects of caffeine to wear off, so a side-effect of drinking coffee too late in the day can be sleep disturbances like trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

When I’m drinking coffee, whether it’s to start my day or as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, I’m usually aiming for that caffeine boost. Not only does it taste good, but coffee is my go to for when I need to stave off drowsiness.

However, what happens when we switch to decaf? Does it still hold the power to keep us awake?

According to 23andme, I’m a genetically fast metabolizers of caffeine; that means it is less likely to disrupt my sleep and I can have a caffeinated coffee late in the evening and still fall asleep. I don’t need to stick to decaf like others might who a caffeine sensitivity.

Did you know: 45% of the population in North America are estimated to be fast metabolizers (genotype A/A), while the rest fall into either the slow metabolizer (C/C) or the intermediate metabolizer (A/C) category.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to provide useful and accurate information. Regardless, this information should not be relied upon in place of consultation with healthcare professionals and should not be confused with advice from professionals, such as dieticians and doctors.

Will Decaf Coffee Keep You Awake?

While the amount of caffeine in decaf coffee is significantly lower than regular coffee, it still contains some. If you are sensitive to caffeine, even a small amount may have an effect on your sleep.

Although, for most coffee lovers, the small quantity of caffeine in decaf coffee shouldn’t be anywhere near enough to significantly disrupt sleep or cause insomnia.

The effects of caffeine generally peak within an hour and can linger in the body for four to six hours. Drinking decaf coffee at a 10 a.m. meeting likely won’t affect a your sleep 12 hours later. However, consuming any amount of caffeine before bedtime can be detrimental to the quality of your sleep

Actionable Tip: Listen to your body. If you notice any sleep disruptions after drinking decaf coffee, try adjusting the time you drink it or consider other non-caffeinated alternatives. I recommend looking at drinking a good quality decaf coffee like a decaf option from Purity Coffee.

How Does Caffeine Affect Sleep?

Caffeine affects multiple stages of sleep, including sleep latency, total sleep time, sleep quality, and deep sleep.

According to different research papers we read, consuming caffeine can prolong sleep latency, which is the time it takes to fall asleep. It can also reduce total sleep time, making you sleep fewer hours overall.

In terms of sleep quality, caffeine can worsen perceived sleep quality and lead to more frequent awakenings.

Caffeine has a significant impact on deep sleep, specifically stages 3 and 4, which are critical for feeling refreshed the next day. Caffeine can also shorten deep sleep time and decrease slow-wave sleep, which is essential for restorative sleep. 

It can shift rapid eye movement (REM) sleep to the early part of the night and stages 3 and 4 to the latter end of the sleep period.

Stage 1 sleep may be increased in young adults, while stage 2 sleep may be decreased in middle-aged adults due to caffeine consumption

What’s The Point Of Decaffeinated Coffee?

Decaffeinated coffee serves a variety of purposes. Some people simply enjoy the taste of coffee, but prefer to generally avoid or limit their caffeine intake for health reasons, such as pregnancy, heart conditions, or even sleep disorders.

Other coffee drinkers may enjoy having a warm beverage in the evening without worrying about any potential repercussions, such as sleep disturbances.

With decaf, coffee lovers can indulge in their favorite drink while avoiding the anxiety and jitters that can sometimes be brought on by caffeine.

When I’m discussing coffee options with friends, I often recommend decaf as a way to enjoy the coffee taste without the potential downsides associated with caffeine intake.

Actionable Tip: If you enjoy the taste of coffee but want to cut down on caffeine, you should consider gradually replacing some of your regular coffee with decaf – especially in the afternoon.

Does Decaf Coffee Have Caffeine?

Despite its name, yes decaf coffee does indeed contain some caffeine. The decaffeination process removes about 97% of the caffeine content – but it’s not completely eliminated.

Typically, an 8-ounce cup of decaf coffee contains up to 7 milligrams of caffeine, compared to 80 to 100 milligrams in regular cups of coffee.

From personal experience, it’s crucial to remember that decaf doesn’t mean caffeine-free. It merely means less caffeine, so it’s still important to moderate your intake.

Actionable Tip: It’s worth checking the label on your decaf coffee to understand the caffeine content, also there are different methods of decaffeination like Swiss Water Method which is my favorite.

Is Decaf Coffee Okay Before Bed?

Generally, decaf coffee is considered okay to consume before bed, but individual tolerance to caffeine can vary.

If you are someone that’s particularly sensitive to caffeine, it might be best to altogether avoid drinking decaf coffee right before bed. For those less sensitive, a cup of decaf coffee in the evening should not impact their sleep quality.

I’ve found that decaf can be a relaxing ritual before bedtime for me, provided it doesn’t lead to sleep disturbances. That’s never really been an issue for me, but that’s purely anecdotal.

Actionable Tip: If you are unsure about how decaf coffee will affect your sleep, try it out on a non-work night to gauge your body’s response and go from there.

Does Decaf Coffee Not Give You Energy?

Decaf coffee won’t provide the same energy boost as regular coffee due to its low caffeine content. However, it can still offer a placebo effect. For many, the act of drinking coffee, with its distinctive aroma and warmth, can create a psychological sense of alertness and focus.

When I’m needing a bit of a pick-me-up, but don’t want the full impact of caffeine, I turn to decaf for a placebo effect. The ritual and taste can be enough to get me through.

Actionable Tip: If you are looking for a caffeine-free energy boost, consider physical activities like a quick walk or stretching, or even Troscripitions Just Blue as an alternative.

Will Decaf Coffee Keep You Awake? (My Final Thoughts)

While decaf coffee does contain some caffeine, it’s unlikely to keep you awake unless you are particularly sensitive to caffeine. If you enjoy the taste and ritual of coffee but are trying to reduce your caffeine intake, decaf is a good alternative.

For most people, decaf coffee is a good choice for a nighttime drink, as it is generally safe and doesn’t significantly affect sleep. However, if you are particularly sensitive to caffeine or have been advised to cut your intake due to health reasons, it’s best to avoid decaf coffee close to bedtime.

Like all things related to health and wellness, individual responses can vary. What might work for one person may not work for another. As always, moderation and understanding your own tolerance levels are key to enjoying any beverage, including decaf coffee.

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