Here’s why quitting coffee is so hard.
If you’re like most of the population and require a coffee before your eyes have even adjusted to morning sunlight, you probably cannot imagine a life without caffeine.
Who would want to face a morning of emails or errands without the energizing buzz of a good cup of Joe?
But caffeine dependency can hijack your daily routine and your bank account — those daily Starbucks runs add up! Plus, caffeine is not always good for you, so you might be feeling like quitting or at least cutting down on your coffee intake.
Weaning yourself off caffeine is no easy feat. Depending on your consumption levels, your body can have adverse reactions.
How long does caffeine withdrawal last?
These caffeine withdrawal symptoms vary in severity and length for different people, but usually appear within 24 hours and can last up to 9 days.
If you’re reducing your caffeine intake, it helps to understand these symptoms so you don’t give up and pour yourself a hot coffee at the first sign of difficulty.
What are the common caffeine withdrawal symptoms?
Headaches and migraines are common symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.
Caffeine constricts blood vessels and slows the blood flow to the brain. When you quit caffeine, the sudden change of increase in blood levels can create throbbing headaches. Coffee is a popular choice for treating migraines, but this only temporarily subsides pain.
It might be wise to slowly decrease caffeine intake so your brain gradually adjusts to the change in blood levels. Try replacing some of your caffeinated drinks with decaf options.
Coffee is a staple in some morning routines to fight off sleepiness and prep us for the long day ahead.
Caffeine blocks the receptors for adenosine, a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for feelings of drowsiness. These effects last for only 6 hours, leading many people to consume multiple cups a day.
Instead of actually treating sleepiness, caffeine only temporarily prevents us from being able to recognize our need for rest. When we stop consuming caffeine, it has the opposite effect and makes us more tired than we were before. It’s essential that we don’t use caffeine as a substitute for sleep! Make sure you’re getting enough rest to make eliminating caffeine easier.
If you can’t bear to even talk to people before you’ve had your morning coffee, you’re not alone.
In a study in 94 caffeine-dependent adults, 89 percent of participants reported that they had been unsuccessful in their efforts to cut back on coffee consumption due to withdrawal symptoms, including irritability and anger.
Regular coffee drinkers become accustomed to caffeine’s mood-enhancing effects, making it difficult to live without it. Reduce your caffeine intake gradually and try out some other mood-boosting activities, like exercise or meditation, to counteract withdrawal symptoms.
It’s no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine can make you jittery, but eliminating caffeine can have the same effect.
Caffeine stimulates stress hormones and releases adrenalin, which contributes to anxious feelings. Over time, as caffeine dependency increases, the body becomes mentally and physiologically reliant on these hormones, meaning that when they are reduced, anxious feelings reoccur.
Anxiety can be treated with exercise and meditation while your body adjusts to caffeine withdrawal.
While your body adjusts to a change in stress hormones due to caffeine reduction, tremors may occur.
Excessive caffeine consumption and sudden caffeine reduction can cause hand tremors, which are a physical symptom of anxiety.
It might help to have something to do with your hands while your body adjusts to life without caffeine. Consider using a stress ball or having a glass of water to sip on instead of a caffeinated beverage.
Tremors should never last more than 9 days, so monitor this closely and contact your doctor if this symptom persists.
6. Poor concentration
The stress hormones and adrenaline that caffeine releases also work to improve performance in academia, work, and even sport, according to some studies. By raising our heart rates, caffeine increases alertness, allowing us to concentrate better.
When caffeine intake is reduced, many find it difficult to stay focused. When coupled with other symptoms like fatigue or headaches, caffeine withdrawal is difficult to bear in situations where concentration is required.
It helps to consume plenty of water to improve focus and keep our energy levels sustained.
Caffeine stimulates contractions in the colon and intestines which move food and waste through the gastrointestinal tract. In other words, coffee makes you poop.
If your body becomes reliant on caffeine to stimulate bowel movements, a sudden reduction in consumption may result in mild constipation. Typically, this withdrawal symptom doesn’t last more than a day or two, but it helps to eat food with a high fiber content to promote digestion.
Eating more nutrient-rich foods also keeps our energy levels up and avoids fatigue or poor concentration.
In a study examining over 50,000 women, it was reported that women who drank four or more cups of coffee per day had a 20 percent lower risk of depression than women who drank little or no coffee. This is because caffeine can increase the brain’s ability to receive dopamine, a chemical that causes feelings of joy.
These stimulants go away when caffeine is reduced, meaning your mood might suffer. This adjustment takes time, but dopamine and positive endorphins can be increased with exercise and a healthy diet.