It took twelve Panado’s, three-afternoon naps and a copious amount of rooibos tea to carry me through five days of pure agony without coffee.
As someone who doesn’t drink or smoke, coffee has always been my go-to drink at all social gathering. In short: I'm a caffeine addict.
During my normal daily routine, I’d drink anything from five up to nine cups of coffee a day - and my body doesn’t hesitate to tell me when I’ve missed my fix.
And I’m not alone in my caffeine obsession: caffeine is the world’s most widely psychoactive drug.
Irene Labuschagne, dietitian at Stellenbosch University’s nutrition information centre, says the average human can consume four cups of coffee per day with little to no adverse effects.
This, however, differs from person to person as people’s sensitivity to coffee differs.
Overconsumption of coffee has been linked to sleeplessness, anxiety, and jitters, Labuschagne told Business Insider South Africa. Also, she would recommend limiting your coffee intake if you're pregnant.
I decided to put Labuschagne’s advice to the test and see if my sleeping and anxiety improve within five days of quitting coffee.
When I woke up the Monday morning, I had no idea that within three hours I would be unable to maintain focus due to a hammering headache.
Labuschagne said the worst symptoms usually occur between 12 and 24 hours after someone abruptly stopped drinking coffee.
“The severity of symptoms vary from individual to individual, and most commonly include a headache, fatigue, decreased energy, decreased alertness, drowsiness, decreased contentedness, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and feeling foggy,” she said.
Throughout the day I struggled to do the most basic tasks such as type emails, reply messages or simply do my job. It felt like I had a cloud in my head that made all my thoughts fuzzy.
By 14:00 the afternoon, I had such a bad headache that I went back to bed after consuming my first four Panados - and stayed there until the following day.
I’ve quit caffeine before, but I’ve never experienced feeling depressed and demotivated from a lack of caffeine. The Tuesday, aside from waking up with a headache, I questioned everything in my life and felt like I was on the verge of tears for most of the day.
By the afternoon things started to marginally improve, only after I consumed an additional two Paracetamol helpers.
Curiously, I didn't really crave coffee - but I just felt the adverse effects of caffeine withdrawal.
By the Wednesday I didn’t wake up with a headache, and could feel how the sharpness of my brain improved, but I did oddly start feeling aches in my lower body.
The pain remained, even after I took painkillers, and made it uncomfortable to walk or move.
I compensated for my lack of caffeine consumption by drinking rooibos tea which, unlike Earl Grey tea, doesn’t contain caffeine and is, therefore, a healthy substitute. I stayed away of fizzy drinks, which also contain a considerable amount of caffeine, Labuschagne says.
Most of the symptoms subsided by the Thursday, with the aches that I had in my lower body all but disappearing.
My energy levels also dramatically improved, and the depressed attitude I had on the Tuesday was a thing of the past.
It was, however, difficult to keep to my strict Rooibos-tea drinking pattern as its taste became quite bland.
I also noted that I fell asleep much easier on the Thursday evening. I usually have to ease myself into sleep half an hour beforehand, but on that night, I just closed my eyes and slept.
I nearly forgot about my coffee fast on Friday. It was also easy enough to order tea instead of coffee at the barista, who did seem like he judged me a little.
There was also no need to drink any painkillers, and I didn’t experience any symptoms of withdrawal.
Cutting coffee from my diet was a much more difficult task than cutting sugar from my diet, another recent experiment.
And I will go back to consuming coffee, without a doubt. But falling asleep was so much easier, that I will start cutting down on consumption a few hours before heading to bed. And I will try to keep it at fewer than five cups a day.
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