My Week of No Coffee – Science, Study, and Experience

I expected withdrawal headaches. I didn’t get them.

Physical addiction to a substance is such a weird, tricky thing. Last week, I cited a study that had me concluding that my three-cup a day habit might have me over the recommended 400mg caffeine threshold. Could my consumption be causing the headaches I can’t quit? So I took seven days off to see, and…

Here’s the short list of lessons learned:

  • My headaches didn’t worsen at all.
  • My emotional interaction with life didn’t change (as in, I had no more or less anxiety).
  • I did sleep better at night, and fell asleep earlier.
  • But days that I was tired from having interacted with humans the night/day before, I couldn’t get out of the chronic illness brain fog so as to be productive enough to do any serious writing work. I had to accept that and move onto something like pulling out my spring clothes, or taking Mitra for a walk, or reading a book.

Looking back, I dig deeper into how caffeine might have been physically affecting me before this mini-Challenge:

I had initially calculated my caffeine intake by assuming the upper estimates of a cup of drip coffee — but most studies don’t assume that number. My newly found articles work with an assumption that four cups of coffee a day hits the 400mg mark, meaning that I wasn’t overloaded to begin with. Plus, that 400mg limit isn’t even a magical gold standard: studies out of Harvard show that there are no inherent dangers of drinking far more than that; not only does caffeine not affect a risk of heart disease, stroke, or cancer, it can even have an inverse reaction on mortality*!

The most comforting thing about all the links up there is that studied folk conclude caffeine is only a problem for a person if they note that it’s a problem. Having trouble sleeping? Restless? Anxious? Then it might be a problem for you! What to do?

Cut it out and see what happens.

So how will my week of no coffee change my habit going forward?

I’m back on the wagon. As in, there’s a cup right next to me right now. Because I did miss my morning cup. My beautiful jar of almond milk — that I wrote about for a client this week — sat forlornly on the fridge shelf, and I’ve missed its nutty creaminess together with the beans, too.

And I get that we’re all tired, but I have an illness that brings a different kind of tired (think of the worse hangover you’ve ever had and pop a drugged-up head cold on top of it). So if I want to be a productive member of society, I need a cup now and then to motivate my brainwaves to sit at a desk and write words in an order that makes sense.

But I loved reacquainting myself with my tea cabinet. I finished off some old tins of Earl Gray, a beautiful Silver Needle, and some fancy green thing that a friend gave me from a remote Chinese tea maker that is just too delicious for words. I instinctually went from black to green to white to herbal through the day, lowering the already low caffeine intake as I went. I assume that these were factors (along with a very rough week) of why I fell into sleep and slept deeply comparatively easily.

Along with that, everything I drank throughout the day became a choice: Rather than making a pot of coffee and continually drinking it, if I wanted a drink I had to decide what it would be. As this Year studies habit, this mini-Challenge still served me quite well in that way.

Cheers to Choice.

*Aside from pregnant women / infant mortality rates

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