Coffee: America’s favorite drug.
According to WebMD, “drinking coffee throughout the day seems to increase mental alertness and clear thinking.”
Duh, that’s why we love it, but, “Coffee can cause insomnia, nervousness and restlessness, stomach upset, nausea and vomiting, increased heart and breathing rate. Consuming large amounts of coffee might also cause headache, anxiety, agitation, ringing in the ears, and irregular heartbeats.”
I’m doing a no-coffee experiment for seven days. I’ve done no coffee before but only to substitute it for green tea. This time, I’m really trying to cut out the caffeine. Why? Because of sleep and anxiety. It’s frustrating because I like the pick-me-up effect of coffee, but not the neck pain/struggle-to-catch-my-breath effect of coffee. Also, maybe it’s effecting my ability to fall asleep at night.
The reason I have not been able to try this in the past, is because it’s not like coffee is bad for me. Coffee is good as long as you don’t put a bunch of sugar and cream in it. I’ll either drink regular coffee or espresso, both with almond milk. I look forward to it every morning. With my coffee in hand, I can start the day and get right to my writing.
As usual, with an experiment, it feels like I’ve already done this for five days. I feel sleepy and I really want something to wake me up. Instead, I drink water with apple cider vinegar, or a glass of grapefruit juice, or a La Croix (because they’re all the rage).
After I write my pages on the balcony this morning (the weather has been absolutely gorgeous in Charlotte and I want to take advantage of as much time outside as I can), I come inside and immediately lay down on the couch with a blanket. Steve asks me what I’m doing and I tell him simply, I’m tired.
“Maybe this isn’t a good experiment.”
It’s only five minutes before I’m up and we’re making breakfast (fried egg on toast) together, and I’m defiant.
It’s fine. I just laid down for a minute. The food will give me energy.
To be fair, I did completely mess up the experiment yesterday. The night before, I decide to take one of my sleeping pills. I haven’t touched the things in over five months, but for some reason, I think I need it. I’m not thinking about my no-coffee morning. Idiot.
Even though the pill is only supposed to last eight hours, I’m a zombie for pretty much the whole day AND I have a terrible headache during my entire field hockey game.
On the plus side, even after being so tired all day and taking an hour afternoon nap, I still fall asleep fairly easily at night.
I wake up today feeling great, but now as I sit here writing, sleepiness falls over me. If only I had some coffee to give me a little kick.
Steve and I wait for the elevator with our new neighbor, Aaron. Nice guy. He asks us what we do. Steve and I look at each other, and Steve tells me to go first. I find myself embarrassed as I say, “I’m a field hockey coach. And a writer.” Like I’m a fraud or something. Like I have no business saying I’m a writer.
Steve notices and we talk about it in the car. He tries to make me feel better, telling me that once field hockey season ends, I’ll have more time for writing, but I am feeling absolutely horrible about myself in this moment. I hate feeling this way. Sorry for myself, stuck, in a rut, like I’m not good enough, like I’m not doing enough, like I’m a hack. I try to get over it, but the feeling lingers.
This has definitely been more of a struggle than I thought. I thought that I’d miss the taste and the smell and the simple act of drinking the delicious hot beverage. But more than that, I really do miss the energy it gives me. How in the world do people get energy without caffeine?
I was really hoping that the feeling coffee gives me would be mostly in my head. Like when I think, ‘I need some coffee,’ that in reality, I don’t, and I just like the idea of something giving me energy. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
I have wanted to take a nap every single day this week. No joke. I’ve only actually taken a nap twice, but I wasn’t happy about it. I don’t want to take a nap a few hours after I wake up. I want to be getting shit done.
Thankfully, I have field hockey every day, so no matter how tired I am in the morning and afternoon, I am brought back to life at 4pm. Being outside and coaching never fails to wake me up.
Also, I have been falling asleep at night more easily (not staying asleep, but falling asleep).
Usually, Steve doesn’t understand it. We’ll be downstairs watching TV and I’ll be so, so tired. We decide to go to bed, and as soon as I’m upstairs, I’m giggly and wired and want to play. Steve is bewildered. “You were just so tired!”
The past three days, I’ve been having some aches and pains in my upper legs, hips, and lower back. It hasn’t prevented me from doing anything, except relax and sleep. If I’m moving, they don’t bother me, but as soon as I stop, it’s like this weird pressure and achy feeling and the only things that feel good are stretching, massage, or any kind of pressure at all. The first night it was really bad, and I couldn’t sleep. I found myself trying to lay with my legs bent underneath me, in a way that stretched my quads to the max. That was ridiculous; I couldn’t stay in that position because that hurt, too.
For my birthday, Steve got me this acupuncture mat. It’s so cool. I lay on it sometimes before I go to bed. It covers my entire back and it’s covered in sharp, needly points. It makes my body very warm and gets the blood circulation going.
At 5:30am, when I can’t take it anymore, I decide to try the acupuncture mat on my legs. I lay the mat on the bed and lay my butt and thighs on top of it. The sensation of the needles in my legs quickly takes over the aches and pains and soon, I’m fast asleep.
Yesterday I feel fine in the morning, but by the afternoon, I feel the aches creeping back in, and by the time I get home from practice, the pain is back in full effect. I fall asleep on the acupuncture mat this time, but at some point during the night, I remove it. By the early morning, I’m tossing and turning again because I’m so uncomfortable.
Steve is worried about me. I tell him it’s fine and I’m sure it will just go away on its own, but he always worries because I still don’t have health insurance (I missed the deadline so I have to wait until the new year).
Later I work on my blog and do some more research on coffee.
Dr. Michael Traub, a past president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, says “Quitting coffee “cold turkey” can cause mild to severe headaches as well as nausea, anxiety, fatigue and depression, lasting for several days.”
Oh… Could there be a correlation between my leg pain and coffee withdrawal? Is that considered fatigue? Also, maybe this has to do with why I got so down on myself the other day, which is kind of how I’ve been feeling about myself all week! AND why I had such a terrible headache the other day and I thought it was just because I took a sleeping pill the night before.
I share this with Steve. He looks like he wants to pour coffee down my throat right this minute.
“Well, babe, maybe you should drink some fuckin’ coffee.”
I love when Steve curses. It’s adorable. I laugh and tell him I still have two more days. His shoulders slump a little. “You did the experiment, and you’ve seen the effects.”
I know, but I have been able to fall asleep easier, too.
Steve reminds me that ever since we started waking up earlier, I have been a little better about falling asleep, so that could also be a contributing factor.
He’s right, but I still want to see it through. I actually feel a lot better after reading this. I AM a writer! I just got a little depressed because I didn’t drink my coffee!
You’d think I’d be fine on the last day, but I want coffee more than ever, especially because I work all day at the restaurant. Even after going to a yoga class in the morning, I still get terrible anxiety during work and my neck and back are killing me by the end of my shift. (My legs feel better, though!)
What have I taken from this experience?
- Coffee works. Caffeine is real, and I enjoy it.
- I have bad anxiety with or without coffee, but coffee might make it a little worse. Sometimes.
- Coffee doesn’t actually give you energy; it just tricks your brain into thinking you have energy (which is fine by me).
- If anyone is trying to quit coffee but still wants the energy, one healthy substitution might be Ashwandagha tincture, an herb that can “help alleviate symptoms [of stress, fatigue, lack of energy, and difficulty concentrating].” (Let me know if you try it.)
- Moving forward, I will try to wait until I’m actually feeling tired before I automatically start drinking coffee because mmm coffee. Also, I will try to keep my coffee drinking to the am hours, so that it doesn’t effect my sleep.
- Right now, I am drinking my first cup of coffee after seven days without it, and I feel GREAT.