Judging by the headlines, it’s become chapter-and-verse to stop drinking caffeine after 4 p.m. — if not quit it altogether. Case in point: In July, Michael Pollan told Joe Rogan how much better he was sleeping after cutting caffeine from his diet. More recently, the guy who gave the world Whoop, told GQ that he takes his last sip of coffee by 2 p.m. at the latest. All of this, of course, comes on the heels of years of expert advice suggesting that if you want to sleep like a rock (and apparently, Michael Pollan), you ought to avoid drinking anything caffeinated at least four to six hours before you plan on hitting the hay.
In my humble opinion, though, this is all crazy talk. I say drink as much caffeine as you want all the way up until the moment your head arrives on your pillow. You’ll be fine. In fact, you’ll be more than fine. You’ll be a little Persian.
In my Persian family, it’s never been a question of if we’re going to have caffeine after dinner, but how much caffeine we’re going to have after dinner. Or as we put it, “How dark do you want your tea?” The baseline is typically the color of amber. But most of us go for something far darker, like the hue of red oak trees or cognac. If you feel your taste buds squirm, that’s the sweet spot. (As you can probably gather by now, the deeper the color, the stronger the tea — and obviously, the higher the concentration of tannin and caffeine.) I can just hear my 83-year-old grandmother saying in Farsi, “How else am I supposed to eat my almond cake?”
To her point, there are clearly digestive processes at play. In a post-gorged state, you need something to soothe all the excess food that’s making it difficult to breathe. The rich bitterness of tea, in particular, helps escort food through your intestines so that it can neatly pass through your body. But more importantly, tea keeps the conversation moving for at least another hour, pushing the end of the night further away. What are you in such a hurry for anyway? Tomorrow will get here when it gets here. Have a cup of tea, and wind the day down with something robust and life-affirming.
I guess what I’m saying is, don’t trust the science on caffeine (save such trust for climate change and vaccines). Don’t trust the entrepreneurs who merely want you to become a better optimized, better rested worker bee either. Instead, trust my people — the Persians. Almost from birth, they’ve taught me that you can drink caffeine well into the night and still find enough time for sleep.
Admittedly, though, even if the late-night caffeine did mess with my cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents and parents’ REM cycle, they still wouldn’t give up their tea. Because then they’d really lose sleep.