I’ve decided to give up caffeine for thirty days, mostly because I’ve become a little more dependant on coffee than I want to be. A little because I’m curious if all the research is correct and my caffeine intake is contributing to a lower quality of sleep and leading to headaches.
I never liked coffee. It was not something that was a part of my daily life until a couple of years ago. When I moved back to Ontario from Alberta, I stayed with some friends who drank coffee every day. I always liked the smell of coffee but never was a massive fan of the taste, so whenever I drink it, I add cream and sugar to improve the taste. Over the last year or two, it has now become a daily part of my routine.
I drink a cup when I first wake up in the morning. I sometimes drink a second cup mid-afternoon when I hit the afternoon energy wall around 2 pm. I have started to crave it the same way I crave ice cream or chocolate. As someone who has a background in addictions counselling, I know this could become a problem. I don’t want to be addicted to coffee, or anything else for that matter.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve noticed that my sleep quality has also started to decline. I’ve had an app for the previous ten years that tracks my sleep. It gives me overall ratings of quality and monitors at what point throughout the night I’m in a REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep cycle and at what points I’m not. REM sleep is crucial for our health because when your body is in REM sleep, your brain is resetting and flushing the fluid it holds. It flushes excess neurotransmitters and encodes memories. We all need this level of sleep to remember the things we learned. Research shows that people who lack of REM sleep may have a buildup of proteins that can lead to Alzheimer’s.
While I’m not worried about that specifically for myself, I am concerned that my sleep quality has gone from 99% to 56% in the last twelve months. Understanding that Covid-19 and other world events in the previous eight months have probably added to that, my caffeine increase has been the only significant change that I can see outside of those events.
Caffeine is a stimulant, which is why we all love a cup in the morning. It changes our mood and helps us be productive. The problem comes when you drink too much, or you have it too late in the day. Caffeine has a half-life of 4-6 hours. This means that you still have about half the caffeine in your body 4-6 hours after drinking it, which is why it can contribute to poor quality of sleep.
For me, it is currently contributing to what I see as adverse health side effects. I don’t sleep well, and I get headaches. I can be even more moody than usual. For the next 30 days, I am not going to be drinking coffee, tea (green tea and matcha, which I love are both high in caffeine levels), or eating chocolate and other foods that have caffeine in them.
After researching caffeine in the last week or so, I realized that part of the reason I need or want it in the afternoons is that I’m sleepy. My body isn’t getting enough rest. The sugar I add to my coffee isn’t helping my overall health either. Over the next 30 days, I’m going to see if my sleep improves. I’m going to test if I can hold off on having any for the next 30 days or not. I’m going to see if my afternoon headaches and grogginess goes away.
I will keep you all updated on how it goes, and if you want to try it yourself, let me know how you do with it.