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Should People with Sleep Apnea Drink Decaffeinated Coffee?

Posted On April 10, 2014
Sleep Apnea Drink Decaffeinated Coffee
April 10, 2014

Let’s face the known fact: Caffeine keeps you awake and your mind active. Our desire for the quick jolt we get from java keeps the lines long in front of our favorite barista. But if you routinely have trouble sleeping and have a disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), caffeine can do more harm than good. Caffeine can make it more difficult to fall asleep, sleep is light and you can wake up more often, especially with an increased need to go to the bathroom. Easy to see why caffeine should be avoided. But should people with sleep apnea drink decaffeinated coffee?

Decaffeinated Coffee?

With OSA, a person has trouble breathing at night due to an obstruction of his or her airway. Sometimes they might even awaken gasping for breath. Symptoms that sufferers experience are daytime sleepiness, fatigue, poor concentration, memory loss and insomnia. Caffeine can make these symptoms more pronounced.

Caffeine affects people in different ways. Some need more and some need less to produce the same effect. Add to the mix that caffeine is not just in coffee but tea, cola and energy drinks, foods such as chocolate, and even medications like pain relievers, weight-loss pills and cold relief tablets. For the most part, it takes about 60 minutes for caffeine to have its full effect on the body, which can last 4 to 6 hours. Caffeine takes almost a full day to be completely out of your system and even longer if you have a medical condition.

The following are the amounts of caffeine in each of these substances in an 8-ounce sample:

  • Coffee: 65 to 350 mg, depending on whether or not it’s instant or brewed
  • Tea: 50 to 70 mg
  • Coca-Cola: 50 mg
  • Red Bull: 80 mg
  • Chocolate bar: 20 to 60 mg
  • NoDoz: 100 mg
  • Click here for a more complete list of caffeine content.

It is a myth that decaffeinated coffee does not have caffeine. There is some amount of caffeine to the tune of 1 to 5 mg, but can climb up to 32 mg. In 2007, Consumer Reports mystery-shopped decaf coffee at Burger King, McDonald’s, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.  McDonald’s had the lowest level of caffeine in their decaf coffee with Dunkin’ Donuts at the highest with 32 mg in a 12-ounce cup, which would be equivalent to 12 ounces of a cola soda.

So if you want a hot beverage instead of decaffeinated coffee, try chamomile tea, which is caffeine free. And for chocoholics who need to avoid caffeine, you will be relieved to know that white chocolate is truly caffeine free. Of course, it is always a good idea if you have difficulty sleeping to get checked out by a physician. Second option would be to follow good sleep hygiene practices.

If you have sleep apnea and would like to explore available treatment options, please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a free consultation.

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Communications for Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America, manages all content and communications for the company.
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