I decided to quit coffee cold turkey
And this is what happened
On a random Sunday morning, I woke up and decided to quit coffee — cold turkey. My partner suggested I should stagger the process but I was determined to be free from the legal and socially acceptable addiction.
It’s been exactly 7 days since my last cup of magical black liquid goodness and parts of my brain is hallucinating the smell of coffee just to try and entice me back to it.
So far, I’ve managed to hold it off — with the help of no tea, no hot drinks, no substitute.
The real reason why I decided to quit coffee
It was almost 1am and I’ve been lying in bed for approximately an hour and half. I was tired. I felt tired. My eyes were closed and I did everything I could in order to go to sleep.
But sleep just wouldn’t come.
It got to a point where it was 2am and the anxiety of not being able to fall asleep kicked in. The next day would be a full on day with the toddler, followed by the night time work — rinse and repeat.
I did a metal trek backwards and tried to figure out why, despite feeling completely exhausted, I was still wired as can be.
It didn’t take long for me to conclude that drinking six to seven cups of instant coffee throughout the day had something to do with it.
It started with just one innocent drink
During my pregnancy, I didn’t drink any coffee. My final cup was a mocha java chip frappe from Starbucks at around 2 months knocked up before I called it quits.
After I had the child, the midwife cleared me for the black liquid — but in moderation since I was breastfeeding and I didn’t want a wired baby.
Six months later, when the child no longer required me as her source of food and I returned to work, the coffee drinking started up again — properly this time with a cafe pressed cup of delightful goodness to perk up my sleep deprived brain.
After work decided to shut down an entire department and I was part of the firing line, I became a stay at home mom with a dream. It was during these next few months that things started to get out of hand.
One cup of coffee first thing in the morning quickly turned into a second one around 10am. A third cup quickly followed at lunch time. The fourth found its way into the routine at around 2pm. The fifth came just before 5pm and a possible sixth, depending on how awake I wanted to feel, crept in at around 6 or 7pm to get me through the night.
Over time, I became more and more reliant on coffee to stay alert and awake — then the weeks of insomnia started. At first, the struggle lasted only until midnight but as the days passed and I drank more and more coffee to function during daylight hours, the hour I finally fell asleep was not getting any better.
Prioritizing good sleep is self love
This is something I wrote in a previously published article about why we need to sleep more.
Despite my efforts to get 8 hours of sleep, my body was unwilling to do so.
The caffeine allowed me to borrow from my already depleted sleep bank and despite my efforts to try and pay it back, it just won’t let me. My adrenal glands were probably screaming at me to stop. Every cup gave a nudge for adrenaline — but at some point, my over consumption probably caused it to go into a state of borderline adrenal fatigue.
I’m not a doctor but for the first time in my life, my eyes became sensitive to sunlight to a point where it made me feel like I’m a vampire, I’m always hungry and despite what can be considered a good night’s sleep, I’m still tired.
The first day I quit drinking coffee, I slept.
Somewhat delighted by new found progress, I decided to treat myself to a cup of tea the next day. Unconsciously, I made a cup of coffee by mistake and had to start all over again.
I don’t know what happened but my body clung onto the minute amounts of caffeine I got from from the one cup of tea. My insomnia returned. So against all internet advice, I decided that I was going to go cold turkey — properly.
Sleeping from 7 to 7
It was the second cold turkey day without any additional caffeinated products in my diet (no chocolate, no tea, so soda, so anything that might have added caffiene) I felt so tired — but it was a proper kind of tiredness with weary eyes that actually went to sleep as soon as I closed them.
That first night, I went to sleep at 8pm, woke up around 1am and then went back to sleep again only to wake around 7am.
The second day, I couldn’t make it past 6:30pm and went to bed at 7pm. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I actually slept. I woke feeling like I had a good night sleep and continued the morning with a degree of alertness.
It was also on this day that the headache started to set in. I’m not one to have headaches and figured that its to do with the caffeine withdrawal.
One study says that consuming just 250mg (give or take 2–3 cups of coffee) can reduce cerebral blood flow by as much as 27%.
The sudden reduction in caffeine intake can cause a sudden change in blood flow that results in the withdrawal headaches. How long this experience lasts depends on how quickly the brain can adapt to the increase blood.
To be continued…
At some point, I’m supposed to feel the euphoric freedom of not having to drink coffee.
At some point, I’m supposed to know what relying on myself and listening to what my body is trying to tell me feels like.
At some point, I’ll be able to work at night again whilst keeping a one year old entertained during the day.
But right now I will just have to live with this headache that gets worse during the afternoon and big yawns past 10am. I suppose this is the price of all those hours awake whilst my body was telling me to do the opposite.
At some point, I’ll feel good again and won’t be sleeping from 7–7 so that my brain can recover from the habituated abuse from such a culturally acceptable substance. I guess my sleep bank is finally taking deposits again for the deficits I’ve built up over the past year and a bit.