When you wake up in the morning – regardless of whether you’ve had a good night’s sleep or not – chances are the first thing you do is put the kettle on. Everyone loves a morning cup of coffee or tea, but did you know that the time you drink your first hit of caffeine can actually have a huge impact on your day?
Yep, it turns out consuming caffeine is all about timing and if you get your timing wrong, you’re setting yourself up for an unproductive day and oftentimes a sleepless night. According to experts, knocking back your first cup of coffee within the first hour of waking up doesn’t give you the hit of energy you think it does, but instead it has the opposite effect, leaving you feeling drained and unable to focus.
So, before you fire up the best coffee machine (opens in new tab) in the morning, it’s important to figure out the best time to have your first cup of coffee so you feel energised, awake and ready to conquer the day.
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Coffee first thing in the morning: good or bad?
The main reason you shouldn’t be having coffee first thing in the morning is because it affects your body’s production of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that regulates your body’s functions, including metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, alertness and focus. As quoted in Healthline (opens in new tab), cortisol follows a rhythm specific to your sleep-wake cycle, so when you wake up in the morning, your body will release high levels of cortisol so you feel more awake.
While your cortisol levels will slowly decline throughout the day, if you drink coffee when your cortisol levels are high, this interferes with cortisol production and means your body relies on caffeine rather than your body’s natural hormones. As the energy you get from caffeine lessens, your focus and attention will too, so it’s best to drink coffee when your cortisol levels are lower so you get a natural hit of energy followed by an extra boost from your first cup of coffee.
Additionally, as cortisol is also known as a stress hormone, drinking coffee too early can leave you feeling stressed and anxious which can affect your performance and mood for the day.
Another reason you shouldn’t drink coffee too early is because of dehydration. According to Well+Good (opens in new tab), we lose almost a full litre of water every night so when you wake up from an 8 hour sleep, you’ll be feeling dehydrated. Rather than reach for a coffee, you should be reaching for a glass of water to rehydrate yourself. As caffeine is a diuretic (a substance that promotes urine production), if your first drink is a coffee, you’ll need to urinate more so you’re losing even more fluids.
Finally, it’s not necessarily bad to drink coffee on an empty stomach but caffeine does stimulate the production of stomach acid. While this doesn’t affect most people, some people who are sensitive to coffee might experience heartburn, indigestion or other stomach problems if they drink coffee before their first meal of the day.
For more information on caffeine and when to start/stop drinking it, check out what time should you stop drinking coffee (opens in new tab) for all the details.
What time should you have your first coffee?
So, when should you have your first cup of joe? It’s been suggested by many experts and researchers that the best time to drink coffee is mid-late morning when your cortisol levels are lower. The amount of cortisol in your body tends to decrease about 3-4 hours after you wake up, so you should try to stick to this window. For example, if you wake up at 6am, you should drink your first cup of coffee or tea at 9-10am.