The Best Time of Day to Drink Coffee (It’s Not When You Think)

Plus 5 tips to turn your morning cup from so-so to incredibly healthy.

By: Emma Lunsford

Here’s a question we all want the answer to — does coffee actually affect your sleep? Maybe not! New research suggests consistent java-drinkers are in the clear for great snoozes. But more on that later. Today, we’re talking about the absolute best time to drink coffee for your overall health. And listen up, because it’s not first thing in the morning.

When is The Best Time of Day to Drink Coffee?

Firstly, we have to understand that the body runs on a cycle known as the circadian rhythm. This rhythm regulates the release of hormones at different times of the day for optimal body functioning. For instance, right before you go to sleep, it releases melatonin to induce a restful slumber. In the morning, however, it releases an important stress hormone called cortisol to get the body energized and ready for the day. Keep in mind that too much cortisol over a long time can lead to chronic stress, which is why your cortisol levels inevitably try to level out and dip mid-morning. 

What does this have to do with coffee? Well, caffeine can also increase cortisol levels. So when you drink coffee right after you wake up, you could be hiking up your already high cortisol levels. This can lead to a pretty hard energy crash later on — not to mention extra, unneeded stress on your body.

Overall, the best time to drink coffee for energy is probably an hour or two after waking, when your body has fully adjusted its cortisol levels. But there’s also another reason to not drink your morning cup first thing: we just tend to do better with water. 

There’s conflicting research on whether or not coffee contributes to dehydration, but we know one thing for sure — water is incredibly hydrating. And after a good night’s sleep (where you haven’t hydrated in 7-9 hours), you’re bound to need some good H20. Plain water can be less irritating for the stomach and a much gentler way to wake up, too. It’s okay to ease into the day! This way, you’re more likely to start relaxed and ready instead of frazzled and anxious.

Will Caffeine Later in the Day Affect Sleep?

Short answer? Maybe. New research suggests if you regularly consume caffeine, drinking a cup of coffee in the morning or afternoon doesn’t harm sleep quality. So if that cup or two of coffee per day is part of your routine, it’s probably okay to drink a cup later in the day, and it won’t mess with your much-needed snoozes. But if you only drink a cup once in a while, it might be best to stick to a morning schedule until your body acclimates. 

How Much Caffeine Per Day?

The FDA recommends adults limit their caffeine consumption to under 400 milligrams per day, which is about four to five cups. But keep in mind that everyone handles caffeine differently, and some are much more sensitive to it than others.

RELATED: Does Coffee Increase Stress? Plus Healthier Ways to Drink it 

Is Coffee Good For You?

Despite the fact that coffee tends to get a bad rap, research shows coffee comes with impressive benefits. 

Coffee is loaded with antioxidants. In fact, one study found that coffee was the single greatest contributor to antioxidant intake when compared to wine and vegetables. Pretty crazy, right? 

Another reason to feel good about that daily cup? Coffee doesn’t just help us wake up; coffee may also help boost our mood and support brain function. 

Optimizing Your Daily Cup

If you love your daily cup of coffee and you tolerate it well, along with caffeine timing, there are plenty of other ways to spruce up your cup of joe for the greatest benefit. Here’s what you need to know!

#1 Use Natural Sweeteners

Blood sugar imbalance can also lead to increased cortisol levels. It’s important to keep an eye out for how much sugar you’re dunking into your coffee, as well as the quality. It’s better to go for natural sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, or stevia. The less refined sugar you can add, the better! 

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Sugar Intake 

#2 Spice It Up

Want your coffee to taste even more amazing? This is where spices like cinnamon and nutmeg come in. You can also try cocoa powder and extracts like vanilla and peppermint. All the taste with all the wellness. See these 3 Stress-Fighting Ingredients to Uplevel Your Morning Coffee for more ideas! 

#3 Watch Your Creamers

Avoid processed, artificially flavored creamers, which are often full of added sugar. If you’re sensitive to dairy, go for dairy-free creamers like cashew or almond.

#4 Add MCT Oil

MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) are a type of fat found in foods like coconut oil. They metabolize differently than other fats in that they can be rapidly broken down and used for energy. They’re also perfect for staying full and energized. Try adding a dollop of coconut oil to your coffee, and see how you feel! 

#5 Drink It With Food

For some, drinking coffee on an empty stomach ends up with a lot more trips to the bathroom. This could mean it’s too harsh and acidic for your stomach lining. You can drink your morning cup with a healthy breakfast and see if it helps!

RELATED: How to Make Overnight Oats + 5 Variations to Keep You Full Until Lunch 

Rev Up Your Cup: Coffee Just Got a Whole Lot Better

All in all, when is the best time to drink coffee? Probably later in the morning. If anything else, start with water and move on to coffee afterward. It can boost your overall wellness by hydrating, leveling out your cortisol, and starting off the day slow. Cheers to that morning cup!