Sleeping through 100mg of caffeine.
November 12, 2009 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Why doesn't 100mg of caffeine wake me up in the morning?

I have a lot of trouble waking up in the morning. I have multiple alternating alarms, a dawn simulator wake up light... and now crackheads.

Crackheads are these caffeinated dark chocolate covered espresso beans with 600mg of caffeine per box (which works out to 100mg of caffeine for 6 beans.)

I put the beans by my bed and I eat them when my alarm goes off.. I started with 5 beans a few days ago, but I fell back to sleep. I've been increasing the 'dosage' and this morning at 6am I ate 9 or 10 (I may have dropped one) but I then promptly fell back asleep until 10am. I slept 11 hours, having gone to bed at 11pm last night!

Is there something wrong with me? Caffeine normally makes me all awake and alert, sometimes jittery. Is there some secret property to caffeine that requires water, or that doesn't work while you're asleep? What's the deal?
posted by brenton to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It means you've developed a tolerance, that's all. Take a week or two and have zero caffeine, and once you get over the headaches you'll find that it doesn't take nearly as much to get you going.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:17 AM on November 12, 2009

Response by poster: I hadn't thought of that, restless_nomad, however I don't think that is the issue, since I don't drink caffeine regularly. In the last month I've only had like 3 drinks with caffeine, corresponding with 3 big papers I had to turn in at school. :) Other than that I don't have soda tea or coffee except on special occasions.

If nothing else seems likely, I will go on a complete caffeine fast for a month or so before I try again.
posted by brenton at 11:24 AM on November 12, 2009

I used to be this way, it was my thyroid. It may be worth getting it checked, it is simple and easy to do at any Dr's office, and pretty inexpensive as tests go. Before I knew my thyroid was low, I could drink a pot of coffee, go to bed and fall right to sleep.

It could also be low blood sugar, which a glass of orange juice would fix.
posted by chocolatetiara at 11:24 AM on November 12, 2009

My husband isn't affected by caffeine at all. He can drink a cup of coffee before bed with no issues. Also, caffeine doesn't typically work instantly. You should set another alarm to wake you up in 20 minutes or so after they've had a chance to actually get into your bloodstream and see if that works better.
posted by Kimberly at 11:27 AM on November 12, 2009

I agree with chocolatetiara - have some food or juice. I can drink coffee in the morning and I'll still be groggy for hours until I've got some food in me.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:27 AM on November 12, 2009

Oh yeah and make sure you don't have a sleeping disorder like apnea. Low oxygen levels can make it very difficult to get going in the morning.
posted by Kimberly at 11:27 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

It might just be an issue of needing more sleep, which could be a medical issue.
posted by amethysts at 11:28 AM on November 12, 2009

I think the difference between eating your coffee beans and drinking a cup of coffee isn't the dosage, but rather the fact that making a cup of coffee requires you to be alert and perform a mental task, and those tasks are just as important in waking you up than the actual caffeine. I bet that if you did something that required work in order to access the beans, they would be more effective.
posted by helios at 11:32 AM on November 12, 2009

Best answer: Remember that coffee beans are ground up into a fine powder before they're used to make coffee. There's a reason for that. In order to solubilize, the caffeine molecules have to interact with water. Grinding up the beans creates more surface area, which exposes more of the bean material to water, which increases the amount of caffeine that solubilizes (as well as the speed at which it does so). Solubility is important, because that's really the only way it's going to be absorbed by your body. Chewing the bean is not going to grind it as finely as a coffee grinder would, so the caffeine will be released much more slowly.

Caffeine pills hold the caffeine in a highly soluble material like dextrose. So taking 100mg in pill form will result in a much more noticeable effect than 100mg in bean form. Also keep in mind that a single cup of coffee is generally held to contain about 200mg of caffeine.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:33 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It's worth noting that 100mg of caffeine is the same as 1 proplus, 1 espresso shot or about half a tall starbucks (all figures from wiki). That wouldn't do a damned thing to me and I've pretty much kicked my caffeine habit.

You're not already awake and fueling a fire with caffeine - you're trying to kickstart something by adding caffeine (encased in a hard to digest bean shell) to your sleeping digestive system.
posted by twine42 at 11:34 AM on November 12, 2009

If you are sleeping eleven hours per night, I think you should see a doctor to rule out sleeping disorders, like apnea. Caffeine is beside the point; you need to be making sure you're getting adequate, restful sleep. Coffee tastes good in the morning, and is a good ritual if that's your thing, but it can't really take you from a groggy, falling asleep condition into instant alertness. Nor should it. Address the sleeping issue if you can.
posted by JenMarie at 11:40 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: When you say 'having gone to bed at 11pm' is that when you got into bed, or when you went to sleep?

If you're getting into bed at 11 and not getting to sleep until close to midnight and setting an alarm for 6 then it wouldn't be too surprising that you feel back to sleep until 10. Especially if this is a regular thing. I need to be up at 6:15 every day, and I try to be in bed before 10 and asleep by 10:15. Days I don't manage it I could sleep an extra couple of hours easily, especially if I don't manage it for a few days in a row.
posted by IanMorr at 11:57 AM on November 12, 2009

I put the beans by my bed and I eat them when my alarm goes off.. I started with 5 beans a few days ago, but I fell back to sleep.

Assuming you subsequently rule out any medical issues, as people have raised, one thing you aren't considering is just getting your arse out of bed!

Some people can't snooze - they go straight back to sleep. In addition, you can easily train yourself to sleep through an alarm by ignoring it and going back to sleep after it. I've seen this a number of times with people (including myself) and have adopted a 'yes, I really need to get up' alarm for those occasions.

Your alarm obviously wakes you up, but you seem to be insistent on lying back down and not getting out of bed (you don't mention finding yourself waking with bruises on the floor). If you got up and walked around and didn't lie down again, the chances of you falling back asleep are minimal - or will definitely show an issue that needs medical help.

My current boss was always late to leave the hotel in the mornings (when we were away working) because he has a lax attitude to getting up while we are at the shop during the weeks - basically he trained himself that his alarm was no big deal and so his body started to ignore it. He'd always snooze, so his alarm didn't fully wake him up any more. Now that he uses a different alarm for important, get up now, kind of deals he is far, far better.

A lot of the issues you have may be about conditioning - if you are used to turning an alarm off and going back to sleep, changing the alarm will make little difference unless one particular alarm results in you getting up and moving around straight away. The body will retrain itself. So for non-important days, use a different alarm clock, with a loud one for the important days.

NEVER IGNORE THE IMPORTANT DAY ONE, and just get out of bed. Train yourself that the noisy alarm means action and it will be more effective at waking you up, eventually.
posted by Brockles at 12:13 PM on November 12, 2009

This doesn't answer your question, but should help with the underlying problem.

Steve Pavlina wrote a really good blog post about getting up with your alarm clock. Basically, you train yourself to make a habit of getting out of bed immediately when your alarm goes off. It absolutely works if you do the work - I always get up with the alarm the day after doing the exercises, but I get lazy, stop doing the exercises each day, and it wears off. I'm guessing if you did them every day for 3-4 weeks straight you'd really start to ingrain a new habit.
posted by PFL at 12:39 PM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

I absolutely suck at getting out of bed.... IF I let myself stay in it when the alarm has gone off. This morning, for example, my alarm went off as normal, I turned it off and rolled over. Woke up with a phone call at 11.30am.

My solution is to just dive out of bed (and often head straight into the shower) immediately as the alarm goes off. Don't give yourself the chance to fall asleep again. Then, after you're up, go make a cup of coffee. As an added bonus, the process of thinking/doing something will help wake you up even more.
posted by knapah at 12:59 PM on November 12, 2009

Are you regularly sleeping 11+ hours and can't wake up? If so, it's doctor time. How awake do you feel during the day once you finally do wake up? Something is wrong here, be it medical or psychological, and you need to do the tests to try to rule out a thyroid condition or other medical causes. Your doctor may also recommend some CBT to stabilize your sleep schedule and develop good "sleep hygiene" practices, or perhaps amenable to trying you on an alertness drug like Provigil (used to treat narcolepsy) or perhaps a sedative to see that you get a full night's sleep.

And yeah, as said above, 100mg isn't all that much really compared to a mug of brewed coffee.
posted by zachlipton at 1:25 PM on November 12, 2009

I'm going to repeat others and suggest you talk to a doctor about having a sleep study done. I just had one done myself and was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. I was waking 30 times an hour and my oxygen levels got down to 86%. I'm getting a CPAP machine next week.

I've spent my entire life having trouble waking in the morning, and have been dependent on caffeine for many years. Get yourself checked out. Sleep disorders can cause or exacerbate long-term health effects like high blood pressure, diabetes, and even heart attack.
posted by Fleebnork at 1:36 PM on November 12, 2009

Nthing the idea about checking in with a doctor. It doesn't sound like the caffeine is the issue: you're also using multiple alarms and lights to try and wake up.

You should at least look into the possibility that there is a medical issue affecting your sleep patterns. A lot of sleeping issues (like Apnea) can be treated relatively easily.

Good luck!
posted by HabeasCorpus at 1:43 PM on November 12, 2009

I rarely respond to AskMeFi by saying the poster should go to the doctor--because I am one and have more than enough work to do--but you have sleep apnea until proven otherwise. Sleep apnea if untreated has bad consequences.
posted by neuron at 3:28 PM on November 12, 2009

forget a doctor.

stop chomping caffeine to wake up. it won't work. it is a phenomenally bad idea from a medical and nutritional standpoint.
realize this is probably a problem of self-discipline (likely) or a medical issue like apnea (less-likely)
eat a good proteiny breakfast.
go to bed sooner, on a day in which you DO NOT DRINK CAFFEINE.
get an automatic teapot, set it right next to the bed, brew a cup of tea, cocoa, whatever, as a replacement vice.
put your alarm clock somewhere across the room so you have to drag your somnolent rump a few cold feet to shut it off. alternately, get one of these. they're way cool.

most of the magical wakeful properties of caffeine are actually just those derived from the heat of the beverage, the ceremony of drinking and brewing, and the fulfillment of the chemical expectation incuclated by weeks/months/years of habituation.
posted by mr. remy at 5:23 PM on November 12, 2009

Best answer: You're taking a caffeine nap.
posted by filmgeek at 7:31 PM on November 12, 2009

I'd also try eliminating coffee for a while as an experiment. I have a somewhat idiosyncratc response to it, but if I drink coffee regularly, the quality of my sleep declines so that I have a really hard time waking up or staying alert, even with more and more coffee. A self-reinforcing cycle, obviously. I cut my coffee drinking to a few days per week with occasional 2-week coffee fasts, and I'm much more alert. Tea affects my sleep less than coffee does, but I still religiously avoid caffeine after midday, and I get much more rest from a given amount of sleep now.
posted by hattifattener at 12:21 PM on November 13, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks to all who took the time to answer. Thanks to filmgeek for pointing out the caffeine nap thing: I should have mentioned that in the original question. The whole point was for the caffeine to wake me up 15-20 mins after eating the candy.

I also should have distinguished between "waking up" and "getting out of bed" as it is the latter that I'm trying to do. Once I'm awake enough to take a shower, eat breakfast, or make tea/coffee, I'm already fully awake. The problem, as many people rightly pointed out, is that I am too lazy to get my butt out of bed in the morning. I will sleep through the alarm if it is across the room or if it takes too much effort to disable. I can rationalize all the reasons I need to get up, but at 6:30am, I don't care about anything. I become completely irrational. I'm barely able to eat the candy, I only pull it off because it is sweet and there's a primal instinct. My hope was that after 20 or so days of eating this candy in the morning, I will have settled into good sleeping habits and won't need it anymore. I heard it takes 20 days to form a habit...

I don't think I have sleep apnea, but since it came up so many times, I'm a little worried, so I will see if I can eliminate that possibility somehow.

For now it seems that the main reason that my caffeine alarm scheme isn't working is probably a combination of too low of a dosage of caffeine and the slowness of absorption from the bean. Today I tried to eat 15 beans but I fell back asleep before I could finish them all and there were 5 left when I woke up again later. Perhaps I need to buy powdered caffeine and drink a shot of it in the morning, or perhaps bake it into cookies or something.

If anyone else can shed any further insight please comment!
posted by brenton at 4:27 PM on November 13, 2009

You didn't really respond on this issue, but it's an important one, so I'll ask again: how many hours are you sleeping a night? Are you regularly sleeping 11+ hours a night and having trouble getting up in the morning?

If the answer to this questions is yes or even mostly yes, let me reiterate the advice of virtually everybody, including myself, above: GO SEE A DOCTOR. Trying to figure out how to cram more caffeine into your system is not the answer here; you need to find out what's actually going on here and deal with that. At a minimum, you need some basic bloodwork to rule out a thyroid condition among other things.

Finally, I'd look at your sleep habits generally. Are you going to bed and waking up at about the same time each day including weekends? Avoiding bright lights (TV and laptop screens) before bed? All this stuff makes a difference.
posted by zachlipton at 11:50 PM on November 13, 2009

Response by poster: zachlipton: I generally always have a hard time waking up, regardless of how much I sleep, but I usually get 7 hours or less of sleep. Recently I've been getting more, so I assume I'm just "catching up."

Nevertheless, you've convinced me to at least talk to a doctor about it and go through whatever tests are needed. Thanks.
posted by brenton at 11:39 AM on December 1, 2009

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