Coffee has become a large part of the American culture. We use it as part of our morning routines. We use it as a performance enhancer to get us through tough work days. We use it to relax and socialize. Many of us take it for granted until one day, for whatever reason, we try to stop drinking it.
That is when we realize how much we have come to depend on the caffeine in coffee. Caffeine, much like alcohol and nicotine, is an addictive drug. However, it has become so “normal” in our culture that its consumption is entirely unregulated.
Disclaimer: In this article, I discuss my own opinions and observations on health topics. I am not a doctor. The information here is only observations and opinions, not medical advice. Please consult your physician before making any changes that might affect your health.
Just as there are “alcohol abuse” and “nicotine abuse,” there is such a thing as “caffeine abuse.” I once stood in line behind a construction worker at Starbucks as he ordered a latte with four shots of espresso. He then explained to his buddy that he performs this ritual every morning to keep himself awake.
What is it about our modern culture that people need drugs just to stay awake during the day? I have two theories: either we spend too much of our lives doing unfulfilling mind-numbing work, or we get too little sleep. Both theories apply to my own life, and that is why I abuse caffeine.
To fix my problem, I set a personal goal: 8 hours in bed and 1 cup of coffee per day.
The first step for quitting caffeine is to stop relying on it for staying awake. That’s why changing your sleep habits goes hand-in-hand with changing your caffeine habits. Here is how the process worked for me:
- Commit to being in bed for 8 hours with your eyes closed. I’ve found that it doesn’t matter whether you have a quality sleep or not. You just have to be lying in bed with your eyes closed. It is a restful state for your body, and you will feel refreshed in the morning even if you don’t sleep “well.”
- Once you are getting enough sleep, you can start tapering your coffee. People who are addicted to caffeine will get headaches if they taper down too fast. I found that cutting your caffeine intake in half every two days is gradual enough to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
- Once you get down to one cup a day, it gets trickier. The last cup is the hardest to quit. At this point, try switching to drinking green tea instead of coffee.
From here, you should be no longer addicted to caffeine. I enjoy the taste of coffee, so I tend to go back to drinking a cup or two per day. You can also drink decaf coffee, which actually still has a little bit of caffeine in it (about 3% of the original amount). However, to avoid major relapses, you need to continue getting enough sleep each night. Sleep is essential for your overall well-being, so you need to prioritize it in your life.