If you find yourself reaching for your fifth coffee by mid-afternoon, it might be time to take a step back. Certainly most students are facing a caffeine addiction, as they battle lack of sleep, busy schedules, and social lives. It’s normal to grow tired as the day goes by, thanks to a molecule our brains produce increasingly throughout the day, called adenosine. Scientists believe this molecule helps us get to bed at night. Caffeine hijacks this natural process by mimicking adenosine in the brain, pushing the natural molecule out of the way. As a result, you’re left feeling more alert and awake.
While this is helpful in the short term, prolonged caffeine use can cause moodiness, heartburn, anxiety, and lasts in your system for five to six hours. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, it’s likely caused by that 4pm cup of coffee.
Coffee could even be causing your bad skin. The stress hormones released by caffeine cause inflammation which shows up for some people in the form of acne breakouts and other skin problems like dandruff.
Plus, consider all the money you could save by eliminating a daily coffee purchase. Those small increments add up, and you could put that money toward something more exciting.
Caffeine isn’t all bad, but our bodies certainly don’t need it. When you quit caffeine, you’ll sleep better and your body will get better at creating natural energy. You’ll feel calmer and your digestive system will thank you. But how do you quit this addictive substance?
The best technique is to wean yourself off caffeine, whether it be coffee or energy drinks. Slowly reduce the amount of caffeine you consume. It’s recommended to step down the dose by about 10-30mg less every three days until you aren’t drinking it anymore.
In practical numbers, this means:
- Coffee should be reduced by a 1/4 of a cup every two to three days. (Making coffee at home will help!)
- Energy Drinks can be reduced by about 1/4 a can every two to three days.
- Soda can be reduced by cutting back a 1/2 a can every two to three days or by a 1/4 a bottle if drinking a 16 fl.oz. size.
- Tea can be reduced by cutting back 1/2 cup every two to three days.
This will decrease your chances of experiencing withdrawal, as it will slowly teach your body to adjust to the lack of caffeine.
Quitting cold turkey is also an option. However, if you have a serious caffeine addiction you could feel ill for weeks after stopping. Even casual drinkers might experience headaches and tiredness during the first few days. This is a good way to really feel the effects caffeine has on your body, and it’s the quickest way to stop relying on caffeine.
Once you stop drinking caffeine, stay hydrated and commit to a sleep routine. This will help your body readjust and find its own natural energy. You’ll be amazed by how alert you can be without caffeine!
If you can’t handle quitting caffeine, that’s alright. Switching to a beverage that’s lower in caffeine and easier on your body is a good alternative. Green tea and yerba mate are the most popular coffee and energy drink alternatives. Tea offers a lower level of caffeine, but will still give you the kick you need, plus antioxidants that can help guard against cancer and stroke. Tea is also proven increase bone density.
Caffeine isn’t all bad, but it might be worth trying to live without it for a few months and see how you feel. You might never go back to your morning coffee.