Should You Quit Caffeine?

How to know when your daily coffee is doing more harm than good.

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Photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash

Why Quit Caffeine?

Most of us never think twice about our love for caffeinated drinks. Caffeine is the most ubiquitous psychoactive substance on the planet. It can feel nearly impossible to find an adult who doesn’t drink tea or coffee on a regular basis.

Caffeine is also widely accepted as beneficial: it helps us wake up in the morning, concentrate at work, and even perform better at sports. With so much going for it, why would anyone ever want to quit?

My trouble with caffeine arose last year, when I quit smoking and started to get seriously bad insomnia. At first I assumed that quitting nicotine was messing with my sleep, but I soon learned that this was only half-right.

Nicotine cessation does not directly lead to insomnia, but it can indirectly cause sleep problems through caffeine. Nicotine use actually limits the effect that caffeine has on your body. Once you quit smoking, the caffeine is no longer inhibited, and therefore often causes insomnia.

After learning this, I immediately cut down on my caffeine intake. My sleep quickly improved.

Feeling inspired, I decided to eliminate caffeine from my diet entirely as a New Year’s resolution. Now that we’re half way through the year, I can say that I’ve done a decent, but not perfect job sticking with it. I haven’t had any caffeinated drinks, but I have had some very small amounts of caffeine through chocolate.

The Benefits of Quitting Caffeine

Although improved sleep was my original goal when reducing my caffeine use, I’ve since discovered that there are a lot of other benefits of giving up my daily coffees and sodas.

Reduced Anxiety

The number one benefit that I’ve experienced since quitting caffeine — even more important than improved sleep — is reduced anxiety.

I’ve had terrible anxiety issues throughout my life, and it never once occurred to me that caffeine played any role in it. I’ve even gone to therapists to talk about my anxiety, and not one of them thought to ask how much caffeine I was drinking.

Caffeine use is directly connected with anxiety though. Numerous studies have shown that caffeine can increase anxiety, and “caffeine-induced anxiety disorder” is even listed in the DSM-5.

If you suffer from anxiety, you owe it to yourself to at least give quitting caffeine a try. It won’t help everyone, but the benefits are so great that it is certainly worth trying.

Better Breath

On a less serious note, giving up my coffee routine has also really improved the smell and taste of my breath. I’d drink coffee throughout the morning and afternoon, so I always had a faint taste of coffee in my mouth. Since switching to water, my breath smells much better. My teeth are even looking a little brighter too.

Saving Money

Caffeine was never a huge money-sink for me, but it’s been nice to save a few bucks each day. I’ve switched from coffee and soda to water and occasional herbal tea, which cost barely anything in comparison. Although it’s hard to notice the savings in my bank account in the short-term, I’ve definitely already saved hundreds over this first half year.

Less Drowsiness

The most surprising benefit of giving up caffeine is that after your body adjusts, you’ll actually experience less drowsiness. Caffeine is great at perking you up, but it leads to very inconsistent energy levels. When I drank coffee and soda regularly, I had higher peaks and lower valleys.

Since giving up caffeine, it takes me slightly longer to feel “awake” in the morning, but once I do, my energy levels stay fairly high all day. I almost never feel drowsy these days.

Is Quitting Hard?

I suspect one of the biggest things holding many people back from giving up caffeine is that they’re worried it will be too hard. I can ease these fears: quitting caffeine really wasn’t hard at all.

Of course, everyone is different, and I’ve read stories of people who had a very hard time giving up caffeine, but for most people, it doesn’t cause much trouble.

Caffeine is an addictive substance, but the withdrawal symptoms tend to be fairly minor. In my case, the worst symptom was a headache. I was able to mitigate it by simply taking Tylenol, and it only lasted on-and-off for a few days.

The withdrawal symptoms can also be greatly reduced — or even eliminated — by simply tapering off your caffeine use. Instead of going immediately to zero caffeine, just reduce one daily cup of coffee per week.

Should You Quit?

If you struggle with sleep or anxiety, I absolutely think it’s worth trying out a no-caffeine diet. Quitting caffeine hasn’t changed my entire life, but it’s certainly caused some noticeable improvements.

In addition, quitting caffeine is fairly easy to do and doesn’t have any significant downsides. You’ll likely be surprised just how great you feel without it.

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more. Buy me a “coffee” at ko-fi.com/benyaclark.

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