Can’t Sleep? Changing Your Ratio of Taurine to Caffeine May Help

  • by Nils Osmar. September 12, 2023
  • This post is not intended as, and should not be taken as, medical advice. 
  • See full Medical Disclaimer

According to a 2010 study, “treatment with taurine at 0.1% to 1.5% reduces locomotor activity by 28% to 86%, and shifts it from diurnal to nocturnal. At 0.75%, taurine also increases total sleep by 50%.”

The ratio of taurine was also found to matter. A high taurine to caffeine ratio was found to promote sleep, while a low ratio of taurine to caffeine was associated with worse sleep.

Does this apply to humans?

  • The above study was in fruit flies (who need sleep just like humans do).
  • A recent article explored the application of the above study to humans.

Some quotes from the article:

“Our research adds wakefulness to the growing list of fruit fly behaviors where glial cells play an important regulatory role, which includes circadian rhythms, movement, courtship, learning, and memory,” says Emilie Peco, a lead author of the study and a research associate in the lab of Don van Meyel, at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and located at the Montreal General Hospital.

“Raising awareness about fundamental mechanisms of sleep is of general interest for society as millions of Canadians suffer from sleep disorders,” adds coauthor van Meyel, a professor of neurology at the McGill Centre for Research in Neuroscience and the BRaIN Program of the RI-MUHC.

“Daytime sleep in flies is more fragmented than nighttime sleep, but removal of Eaat2 caused their daytime sleep to mimic that which is typically observed only during the night,” says co-lead author Bethany A. Stahl, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of coauthor Alex C. Keene, an associate professor of biological sciences in Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science and a member of the Jupiter Life Science Initiative.

“We think the identification of Eaat2 as a modulator of sleep will be important for researchers who study sleep regulation, sleep-dependent changes in metabolism, and perhaps physicians treating patients with sleep disorders. It suggests sleep researchers need to look beyond the role of neurons, to examine how glial cells control our sleep-wake regulation,” Keene says.

Energy drinks

Energy drinks often combine taurine with caffeine . Interestingly, the combination of taurine and caffeine does appear to confer some benefits in terms of performance, according to this study:

A combined intake of 6 mg/kg CAF and 3 g TAU improved power output during Wingate performance and subsequently agility, balance and cognitive performance in elite male boxers. Although using these supplements separately was effective, it was not more effective than taking them in combination.

Sports scientists and dietitians may recommend the using of CAF*TAU together in sports branches (kickboxing, karate, taekwondo) where anaerobic power, agility, balance and cognitive performance are at the forefront. The experimental procedures used in this study can also be recommended for other sports branches, such as boxing, where anaerobic energy systems are dominant and where physical and cognitive performance is an important factor in success.

This isn’t to say energy drinks are “good for you”, just that there is some evidence that the high ratio of taurine to caffeine in most of them may confer more benefits than it’s sometimes given credit for.

My thoughts on this one:

  • Taurine is a remarkable compound, associated with significant life extension in animal studies.
  • The sleep study suggests that either eating foods high in taurine (poultry or fish) or supplementing with taurine may be particularly important for people who drink full-caffeine coffee or tea, because as our caffeine intake increases, so does our need for taurine.
  • I’m cautious about taking supplements at night because they sometimes interfere with sleep; but when I read about this study, I started experimenting with taking 2-3 grams of taurine at night. It did help for a bit, but then stopped working. I find it more helpful to take it in the early afternoon. “Others’ mileage may vary.”

Not medical advice

This article is not intended as, and should not be taken as, medical advice. I’m not advising that people eat any particular diet or take any particular supplement(s), just reporting on what I’m doing. Supplements, like medications and other interventions, can have side effects; I would encourage people to research both possible benefits and side effects before starting on any supplementation regimen, and consult with a medical professional about any issues which might have a medical component.  See full Medical Disclaimer

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