The Coffee Debate: Is caffeine good or bad for your mental health?

Do you like to start your day off without a nice, warm cup(s) of coffee or grande latte each morning? There are many controversies regarding caffeine and its risks and benefits. In this post I turned to the literature to provide an evidence-based understanding of caffeine’s effects on mental health. Coffee is a highly consumed beverage and due to it’s mildly addictive properties, it is hard to resist! Caffeine is the most popular and widely available drug in the world, thus it is an important topic to discuss.

Do you ever wonder what the “safe” or “suggested” amount of caffeine is? What amount of caffeine is associated with sleep disturbances?

In moderation of 390-400mg or 4 cups (Ruxton, 2009), studies have indicated that it can have beneficial cognitive effects (Lara, 2010; Ruxton, 2008). It has also been shown that over 400mg has been associated with sleep disturbances (Lara, 2010). The average half-life of caffeine is 2.5-4.5 hours but can vary from one individual to another from anywhere between one to ten hours (Ruxton, 2009). This means caffeine affects everyone differently as each person metabolizes it differently. Ever wonder why you can drink a big cup of coffee and be tired shortly after, while your friend drinks a small cup and is “caffeinated” all day? This is because your body metabolizes coffee at a much rapid rate than your friend.  


A recent study in 2010 (Lara, 2010) reviewed human studies that looked at the effects of caffeine with and without psychiatric disorders. In Lara’s (2010) review, many benefits of caffeine were identified. Some of the commonly known effects of caffeine include increased alertness, attention, cognitive functions and elevating mood. Another review that examined randomized control trials (RCT) of caffeine consumption reported similar findings of increased alertness, short term recall, reaction time, mood and lowered perceived fatigue (Ruxton, 2008). In addition to those, a moderate caffeine intake of less than 6 cups a day has been associated with reduced depressive symptoms, fewer cognitive failures and lower risk of suicide. The effects of caffeine on other conditions such as depression and ADHD have been insufficiently studied. It is important to be cautious of the amount of caffeine you consume because high doses of caffeine however can cause anxiety, psychosis and sleep disturbances in susceptible individuals (Lara, 2010). It is also advised that individuals with hypertension and pregnant women limit their caffeine intake (Ruxton, 2008).

Basically, it all comes down to that famous saying: “everything in moderation,” including your caffeine.  Studies have shown consuming 4 cups or less improves certain cognitive processes. However, it is important to recognize how your body responds to caffeine and alter your caffeine consumption schedule accordingly. For example, if you experience sleep disturbances, you may want to avoid your afternoon cup of coffee as your body may be slower at metabolizing caffeine so it stays in your system longer.

Workplace Tips for Caffeine reduction

  • Try an afternoon cup of herbal tea 
  • Stay hydrated - keep a bottle of water with you and drink throughout the day
  • Take an afternoon walk or workout when possible
  • Get some fresh air
  • Try a walking meeting instead of a coffee meeting

Have any other tips to reduce the caffeine throughout your workday? Let us know! We would love to share them! 



Lara, D. R. (2010). Caffiene, mental health, and psychiatric disorders. Journal of Alzhiemers Disease, 20(1), S239-S248.

 Ruxton, C. H. (2008). The impact on mood, cognitive function, performance and hydration: A review of benefits and risks. Nutrition Bulletin, 33, 15-25.

Ruxton, C. (2009). Health aspects of caffeine: Benefits and risks. ursing Standard, 24(9), 41-48.