WTF: Your Coffee Fix Between 8 And 9 AM Is Actually Doing Nothing To Keep You Awake

by Dan Scotti

It’s Monday. Your alarm was set for 7:40 am, in anticipation of a few clicks on the snooze button. You now, finally, stumble out of bed at 8:03 am – and your first impulse is to reach for a K-Cup from the cabinet.

Your day simply doesn’t start until you hit the button on the Keurig, pour the pot, or tell the guy at Starbucks your name (or make one up, obviously).

Without your morning coffee, your days just would never start. Coffee is the be all, start all... after all. Right?

Err, wrong... apparently. I’m sure this goes against everything you’ve ever believed in, for as long as you’ve lived -- but if Beliebers could conform to the idea of Justin smoking pot and getting arrested, without batting an eyelash, I’m sure you’ll be able to adjust to this news just fine.

Alright, stop drinking coffee between the hours of 8 and 9 am, please. It’s not working -- at least not as effectively as you might think.

Here’s the deal: According to this, for lack of a better phrase, life-changing infographic, drinking coffee between the hours of 8 and 9 in the morning is a waste of effort considering the natural effect of cortisol on our bodies.

What is cortisol? Chemically speaking, cortisol is a steroid hormone that is naturally released in our bodies during the morning hours. Essentially, cortisol is like natural caffeine.

Prompted by the cadence of our circadian clocks, our bodies naturally produce cortisol at peak levels between 8 am and 9 am on a daily basis, making us feel more alert and awake. Circadian clocks run on a 24-hour rhythm, which provokes the release of certain chemicals and hormones at different points in the day.

The circadian clock is part of the reason why we’re hungry at certain points of our day, and sleepy at others.

What does this mean for you? Well, like with all things, there are ebbs and flows to our circadian clocks and our cortisol levels. While the one-hour period between 8 and 9 am equates to the maximum release of cortisol, the period of time that follows this window is marked by a dip in cortisol.

Thus, after that initial burst of energy in the morning, you might find yourself feeling sluggish around 10 am. Counterintuitively, it’s not because your coffee is “wearing off"; rather, it’s because your cortisol levels are down.

The best way to combat this is by drinking your coffee AFTER the initial surge of cortisol between 8 and 9 am. By drinking coffee first thing in the morning --  say, 8:30 before leaving for work -- you’re wasting your money. Not to mention, you're probably also wasting time, considering the mayhem that is Starbucks before 9 am.

Let your body naturally energize itself utilizing the release of cortisol, during the early morning. Instead, opt for a cup of coffee between 9:30-11:30 am, as the infographic shows. This way, you can alternate between natural and caffeine-based methods of waking yourself up.

Your body will once again experience a boost from cortisol around lunchtime, or noon. If you attempt to provide yourself with a midday pick-me-up from 12-1 pm, it’s likely that your efforts aren’t as efficient as you once thought.

Instead, wait until after 1 pm when your cortisol levels drop, naturally, before you hit Starbucks for an espresso. This will keep you more alert for the latter portion of your workday. It's all about timing, people.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It