Caffeine is a substance from plants that stimulates the nervous system, increasing alertness and energy. It is found in coffee as well as tea, soda, and chocolate. The effects can be felt almost instantaneously—about 15 minutes after consumption—and caffeine stays in the bloodstream for hours. Research in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine states that the after-effects can be felt even 6 hours before bedtime, so an afternoon cup can disrupt sleep that night.
Caffeine can be addictive, and the more you consume it, the more tolerant your body becomes. You may thus need more and more caffeine to give you the effects that you’re looking for.
Benefits of Going Caffeine Free
While it’s true that consuming caffeine has some benefits, there are also many advantages of going caffeine free:
You’ll sleep better. As earlier mentioned, caffeine stays in the bloodstream for hours and can thus affect sleep at night. Going caffeine free can initially cause a dip in energy during the day but eventually, you may be able to fall asleep quicker and get a better, deeper night’s sleep. This may also result in naturally giving you more energy throughout the day.
You’ll get rid of the jitters. Ever noticed how one too many espresso shots can give you the shakes? Caffeine stimulates the release of adrenaline (a.k.a. the fight or flight hormone), which puts you on edge. Cut back on caffeine and you’ll feel physically calmer.
You’ll reduce anxiety. Aside from calming you down physically, cutting back on caffeine can help you chill out mentally too. Some studies suggest that consuming just two cups of coffee can increase anxiety in those who are prone to it. If you are often filled with anxious thoughts or are prone to panic attacks, going caffeine free may help you manage it.
You’ll have nicer teeth. The tannins in coffee and tea can stain teeth, while the acid can break down enamel. Cutting back on caffeine can thus give you a brighter smile.
You may lose weight. The calories easily pile up, especially if you like to consume your coffee with cream and sugar; even more so if you’re fond of fancy drinks topped with whipped cream and mixed with flavored syrups. Cutting back on coffee can help you cut back on empty calories. Do take note, though, that cutting back on coffee may also lead to weight gain if you replace your coffee habit with other habits like unhealthy snacking.
Tips for Giving Up Caffeine
If you decide to give up caffeine, know that quitting cold turkey might not be the best tactic. Suddenly and wholly depriving yourself of caffeine in one fell swoop could cause you to have withdrawal symptoms, which include nausea, headaches, reduced focus, and muscle aches. These symptoms set in within 12 to 24 hours after giving up caffeine (depending on your dependence) and can last anywhere from 2 to 9 days.
The problem with withdrawal symptoms is that they can be so unpleasant that you decide not to stick to your caffeine-free commitment. Here are a few tips for helping you manage the symptoms and slowly but surely going caffeine free:
Remember: Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t switch to decaf in one go. You can transition to non-caffeinated drinks over a period of one week. On day 1, drink your usual coffee. Over the next few days, mix your coffee together with decaf, going from a 50-50 ratio, working your way up to 25-75, and finally, full decaf by the end of the week. If you have more than one cup a day, you can alternate between regular coffee and decaf, slowly leaning towards more decaf as the week progresses.
Find a replacement. Maybe you find comfort in the warmth of a cup of coffee or enjoy the ritual of brewing your own at home. You can try replacing this with making your own herbal tea, which can bring the same calming process to your daily routine. If you need the shot of energy on a sluggish afternoon, go for a brisk walk—and not to the nearest coffee shop!
Do it on vacation. An article in Bon Appetit recommends starting your caffeine detox when you’re on vacation. A getaway is a break from your daily routine, which likely includes a cup of coffee to jumpstart your day. On vacation, going caffeine free may be more manageable as you won’t need the jolt caffeine gives you in the morning or the afternoon pick-me-up to help you focus later in the day. Vacations are about lazing around by the beach, taking naps in the middle of the day, and letting your mind wander—and you won’t need caffeine for that!