Avoid Sleep Thieves - No Alcohol, Stress and Caffeine

Week 3 of the Fall Asleep Faster Program

A cup of coffee
A cup of coffee. Photo: Kris Timken / Getty Images

This is week three of the Fall Asleep Faster program. Give the skill outlined below a try for one week. Consider it a one-week experiment. Make a commitment to follow these simple steps every day of the week.


What You’ll Do: Certain things steal away your sleep. They make it hard for you to fall asleep and wake you up in the middle of the night. These are the Sleep Thieves: caffeine, alcohol and anxiety.

This week, you will learn to avoid them in the evening to improve your sleep and to fall asleep fast. (Note: Nicotine is also a major sleep thief. We handle that separately with Smoking Cessation tools.)

How It Works: Caffeine, which is a stimulant, keeps the body alert and energized. This is great during the day, but the half-life of caffeine in your body is six hours. That means that is you have a 100 mg of caffeine at 4 p.m., you still have 50mg in your body at 10 p.m. Using alcohol to fall asleep will keep you from having deep dream cycles of sleep, making it easier for you to wake up during the night. Lastly, stress will interfere with our ability to fall asleep by sending a message to your brain that there is something important to be doing other than sleeping. Avoiding these Sleep Thieves in the evening keeps them from acting on our brains and bodies and interfering with sleep.

Get Motivated: Eliminating these three Sleep Thieves will help you fall asleep fast, as well as sleep more soundly.

This will help you sleep better through the whole night and feel more refreshed in the morning.

The Steps

  1. No Caffeine: Your body can process 50% of a cup of coffee in six hours. This week, have no caffeine in the six hours before you go to sleep. This includes chocolate and tea. The idea is to give yourself the best chance possible to fall asleep each night. Once you are in the habit of falling asleep fast, you can reintroduce a little chocolate in the evening.
  1. No Alcohol: This week, don’t drink alcohol in the evening. A glass of wine with dinner is fine if you are going to be up for a few more hours. Your body takes about an hour per drink to process the alcohol. That means if you want to drink two glasses of wine, you should be finished at least two hours before going to bed.
  2. Stress: Thinking too much about your day and other kinds of worrying can interfere with your ability to fall asleep fast. Worry and anxiety cause stress. Stress releases hormones in the body that inhibit sleep. This week avoid any stressors before bed. If the evening news occasionally upsets you, don’t watch it. Avoid making stressful phone calls and discussing stressful topics with your spouse or partner. Think through your day before lying down to prevent the need to process it while you are trying to sleep.

Commitment: This week I will avoid caffeine, alcohol and stress in the evening.


  • Avoiding caffeine in the late afternoon may be a challenge. At a minimum, cut your caffeine intake in half. Just drink half a cup of coffee or tea in the afternoon. That change should make a difference when you are trying to fall asleep.
  • If you miss having a warm drink in the evening, try herbal tea. Chamomile is well-known for its relaxing properties.
  • Really be vigilant about avoiding chocolate in the evening. Chocolate shows up in everything from cakes to ice cream. Just avoid it for this week. You’ll be able to have it again once you are falling asleep fast.
  • The alcohol-containing “night cap” that is often used for falling asleep will give you a night of shallow, unsatisfying sleep. Instead find another way to get yourself ready for bedtime. We’ll explore nighttime rituals more next week.
  • If you get stressed at night or lie awake thinking about work, try to write down your concerns on paper for a few nights before lying down. This will help get them out of your head and make room for relaxing sleep.


If you already avoid caffeine, stress and alcohol, then examine your evening for anything else that might interfere with sleep. Eating late at night, for example, can change your sleep patterns. Stimulating TV can alter your body’s state in the evening. Try to make everything calm and quiet to build up to falling asleep each night.

Remember, try this skill for a whole week before moving on. It is important that you master this skill in order to reach your goal.

Here is the whole program. Give each one a solid one-week try, and then come back and do the next one.

The Fall Asleep Faster Program

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