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Does Coca Cola Keep You Awake? [Soda & Sleep]

does coca-cola keep you awake

If you’ve ever had to work a double shift or you’re spending a late night studying for that final exam, you’ve probably reached for a reliable source of caffeine to help keep you going.

That can be a cup of coffee, a caffeine supplement, or a nice cold bottle of Coca-Cola.

On the other end of the spectrum, you might also have experienced a sleepless couple of hours, wondering if that Coke you had with dinner is not keeping dreamland away. 

You’re probably wondering;

Does Coca-Cola really keep you awake?

The short answer is that yes, Coca-Cola fizzy drinks can keep you awake. There are three ways that Coca-Cola can keep you awake, both in the short term and in the long term.

Those 3 ways Coca-Cola will keep you awake are

  1. Caffeine
  2. High Fructose Corn Syrup
  3. Obesity

Let’s explore how and why Coca-Cola (and other non-diet sodas) can keep you awake, for good or for bad.

What’s in that Coca-Cola that could be affecting your sleep?

does coke keep you awake

To understand the first reason why Coca-Cola soft drinks or instant coffee keep you awake, you have to look at the ingredient list.

When you look at what is in Classic Coca-Cola, you find this:

In there, you can see Caffeine and High Fructose Corn Syrup, both of which are the primary reason why Coca-Cola will keep you up and working or tossing and turning.

Caffeine keeps you awake in a couple of ways. The first one works like this.

How Does Soda Keep You Awake?

When you’re awake, your body naturally produces a neurotransmitter called adenosine.

Adenosine naturally binds to nerve cells in your brain via adenosine receptors.

When they get bound, the nerve cell activity begins to slow down. This also has the side effect or negative effects of letting your blood vessels in the brain relax and open up more widely, primarily to let more blood in to flush away toxins and help repair natural cell damage.

Caffeine in instant coffee has a chemical shape that is nearly identical to adenosine.

So when you drink Coca-Cola, the caffeine makes its way to your brain and finds a nice cozy home in the adenosine receptors. So instead of you getting sleepy, the caffeine causes your nerve cells to speed up.

Additionally, because caffeine blocks adenosine’s normal pattern of causing vascular dilation, the blood vessels in your brain constrict.

So caffeine causes your brain to increase in activity, and because of this activity, the rest of your body thinks that there is some sort of emergency. Your hormonal system starts to kick in, and your adrenal glands get ready for a fight-or-flight scenario and you may weight gain.

This means that you get a burst of adrenaline into your system which produces a lot of physical effects.

Some of these include
  • Dilation of your pupils
  • Increased respiration rate
  • Pulse rate increases
  • Capillary constriction and increased blood flow to major muscle groups
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Muscles contract

This is the reason why caffeine makes your heart beat faster and you find your hands getting cold sometimes.

Caffeine also interferes with dopamine uptake in your brain.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is your body’s natural pleasure chemical.

Caffeine keeps dopamine from being reabsorbed into your system, so you get a pleasant feeling from elevated dopamine levels; at least for a short period of time, which helps to keep you awake.

How Long Does Coca-Cola Keep You Awake?

So, the question arises how long does coke caffeine last?

Another way that caffeine keeps you awake is in its six-hour half-life. A single 12-ounce can of Classic Coke has 29 milligrams of coffee.

Six hours after you drink a can of Coke, you still have 15 milligrams of caffeine swirling around your system.

A single can of Coke is equal to a third of a cup of coffee, caffeine-wise, so while you might not get that big of a buzz, it’s still going to be there.

High Fructose Corn Syrup in Coca-Cola energy drinks

sugary coca cola soda and sleep

High Fructose Corn Syrup will also keep you awake in the short term as well.

That’s because they are primarily a source of sugar, which is a simple carbohydrate. Simple carbohydrates like high fructose corn syrup affect health conditions and cause a spike in your blood sugar, and that spike causes a burst of energy.

That energy spike not only keeps you awake in the short term, it can also cause a sugar crash that makes you sleepy later.

While a sugar crash that makes you sleep may seem like a good thing, your body responds to a crash by releasing adrenaline and stress hormones, which may cause you to wake up due to hunger pangs.

Coca-Cola, SodasHeartburn and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)


does soda wake you up

The second way that soda can keep you awake is through heartburn or acid reflux disease.

If you suffer from acid reflux disease or heartburn, soda can exacerbate these syndromes and keep you awake from discomfort. Carbonation in soda can lead to bloating or a feeling of increased stomach pressure.

These symptoms can make GERD and heartburn flare up.
  • GERD is a backflow of acid from your stomach into your esophagus, and it’s often worse when you are lying down.
    • A lot of patients who have GERD find that it becomes worse while trying to sleep.
    • In some cases, acid can even back up so far that it reaches the throat.
  • When that happens, you can be kept awake from coughing or choking.
    • It might even wake you up from a sound sleep.

GERD is also a leading cause of nighttime heartburn, which can cause an increase in sleep apnea and insomnia and even restless leg syndrome.

Restless Leg Syndrome is a condition when you have a feeling in your legs that make you want to move them. The primary symptom of RLS is the need to move your legs.

There’s a tingling sensation in your legs and it makes it so uncomfortable that you have to move them to acquire relief.

Sometimes it’s not enough to move and you need to get up and walk around. This keeps you awake because of the itching and tingling sensation.

RLS can also wake you up from a sound sleep by causing you to twitch or kick as well.

Obesity, Coca-Cola, Sodas, and Sleep Apnea

does coca cola give you energy

The last way that Coke can keep you awake is if you end up drinking more of it than is good for you.

An occasional soda every now and again isn’t bad, but overdoing it can lead to obesity, which can lead to difficulty sleeping.

Regular sugar sodas are the number one way that Americans get sugar in their diet. Consider that a single 20-ounce bottle of soda carries about 240 calories from sweeteners alone.

That increase in calories can lead to obesity, which in turn leads to an increase in the risk of sleep apnea, which leads to worse sleep quality and even less sleep. A 12-ounce soft drink serving contains 42 mg of caffeine.

Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder where your breathing repeatedly starts and stops throughout the night.

There are three specific types of sleep apnea that can occur when you’re severely overweight.
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea is caused when throat muscles relax.
    • The muscles in your throat support the soft palate, your uvula, and the side of the throat.
    • When your muscles relax, then the airway narrows so much that you can’t breathe in properly.
    • You end up causing the oxygen level in your blood to drop, which makes your brain wake you up.
  • Central Sleep Apnea where your brain misfires and doesn’t send the correct signals to your breathing muscles.
    • That means that you may actually stop breathing for a short time, and then awaken with shortness of breath.
    • This can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.
  • Complex Sleep Apnea is where you have both types of sleep apnea at the same time.

In general, being obese causes obstructive sleep apnea more than central sleep apnea.

If you suffer from sleep apnea, then there are ways to treat the malady. This is a more serious long-term side effect of drinking Classic Coca-Cola because of excessive sugar and may require a CPAP device or even surgery to correct it.

Does Coke Help You Stay Awake?

So, can coke keep you awake?

It might seem like drinking Classic Coke will keep you awake just from the sugar and caffeine, but there are more ways that it can affect you than that.

Soda can exacerbate acid reflux disease and heartburn and even cause bouts of restless leg syndrome.

On top of that, a lot of sugary soda causes an increase in weight gain, which can lead to sleep apnea and resulting in insomnia as well.  These combinations make what will keep you awake

Using a can of soda, sugary beverage, or caffeinated beverages as a temporary boost to keep you awake in an emergency is a viable way, just like drinking a couple of cups of coffee.

Just make sure to do it in moderation so you can avoid the long-term effects of sugary soda on your sleep and general health.