You might be able to do better. When it comes to when you drink your coffee, that is. For about 60% of Americans, morning coffee is a daily ritual. But, though that early cup of Joe may ward off an impending caffeine headache, it does little to wake you up. At least according to research by Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences PhD candidate Steven Miller.
Why? Because chronopharmacology, of course! It’s less complicated than it sounds. It’s “the study of the interaction of biological rhythms and drug action,” explains Miller. In this case, the biological rhythm is your circadian clock and the drug is caffeine.
The circadian clock is your body’s internal timekeeper that dictates that you’re diurnal (unless you’re a vampire or work the night shift, then you’re probably nocturnal). This clock is controlled by the hypothalamus nucleus (SCN), which “controls your sleep-wake cycle, feeding and energy consumption, [and] sugar homeostasis” and helps manages your hormones, including cortisol. If you’ve read articles about stress, you’re probably familiar with cortisol. It gets out of whack when you’re chronically stressed and can lead to all sorts of nasty things. But, cortisol is also what prevents you from wanting to nap on your keyboard.
Cortisol levels peak about half an hour after you wake up and then start to fall. If you wake up between 6 and 8 AM, they hit their first plateau between 9:30 and 11:30 AM. They’ll spike again (though not as high as they did the first time) approximately between noon and 1 PM and again between 5:30 and 6:30 PM. That means, if you want to get the biggest effect from your java, enjoy it between 9:30–11:30 AM or between 1:30–5 PM.
I drink my morning latte around 9:30. When do you drink your coffee?