Stop caffeine dependency
July 22, 2009 10:43 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to stop my caffeine addiction?

I drink too much caffeinated products--soda, energy drinks, coffee. I am a graduate student and often am up late at night, and usually need (or think I do) one of these drinks late at night to stay awake or early in the morning to wake me up. I'd like to decrease my dependency on caffeine, so if you have any recommendations as to how I can do this, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks.
posted by dtpollitt to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
If you are making your own coffee you can mix it with Teecino, which you can make in a regular coffee-maker, french press, etc... and then gradually alter the proportions until it's all Teecino and no coffee.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:46 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I tapered off gently and switched to green tea in the morning. I usually make it with 2 or 3 bags, but thats still much less caffeine than coffee or energy drinks. Plus I get all these supposed antioxident benefits.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:47 AM on July 22, 2009

In a word: wean.

I would go slowly to prevent caffeine-withdrawal headaches. One way is to reduce the volume of caffeinated beverages that you drink. The other is to begin to replace high-caffeine content beverages (energy drinks and coffee) with low-content drinks (tea).

The other thing is to find way to better cope with your natural circadian lulls (e.g., the 2-3pm nadir that we all hit and blame, mistakenly, on food). Exercise is a great way to boost your energy level. Also, stay well hydrated, and get adequate sleep. Most Americans are more sleep-deprived than they realize. We truly do need 7-8 hours per night. Find a way to achieve that by working more efficiently/effectively during the day.

(e.g., reduce MeFi usage).
posted by scblackman at 10:48 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you usually make and drink a whole pot of coffee, switch to one of those over-the-cup drip cone filters and limit yourself to one cup.

Try very cold seltzer when you might otherwise have a caffeinated soda.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:57 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Set a "caffeine bedtime". Unless there are very unusual circumstances, I don't drink caffeine after 4, and these days I usually stop at 2 PM.
posted by kestrel251 at 10:57 AM on July 22, 2009

For the soda, just switch to caffeine-free drinks. Sprite, most root beer (Barq's has caffeine), most orange soda, and I think that Coke and Pepsi both have caffeine-free iterations.
posted by reductiondesign at 10:59 AM on July 22, 2009

Wow, caffeine in the afternoon is a bad idea. Ideally, you don't want any caffeine in your system for 8 hours before you go to bed. It sounds like your caffeine intake problem is related mostly to sleep, which is good, actually. Most people just need coffee all the time, for no particular reason. You probably will get caffeine headaches when you start cutting back.

I think you should address the sleeping problem first. So keep drinking coffee in the morning, but don't do it in the afternoon anymore. Plan it out so that you can go to sleep early. After a while of not messing up your REM sleep with caffeine, you should be better able to get up in the mornings without caffeine.

You can also try reducing the intensity of your caffeine intake slowly. Espresso drinks have less caffeine than straight coffee, black teas have less, then green teas, then decaffeinated coffees. I don't know where sodas fit into that mix, but soda is a terrible, terrible drink, and you should stop drinking it forever, yuck.

(BTW, for late night homework, one thing I do is I go to bed at like 1am no matter what, my quality of work just gets worse and worse after that anyway, no matter the caffeine. I set my alarm for like 5am and after a few hours of sleep, though I may be groggy, I'm more awake and able to power through with a bit of freshness that greatly improves my homework.)
posted by brenton at 10:59 AM on July 22, 2009

Find a long weekend and go cold turkey. Take drugstore meds for the headaches etc. The first week is kind of crappy, but I don't have the willpower to taper. Find something you like to drink when studying, etc; I love having a hot drink at my desk while working/studying. Herbal tea, ovaltine. Chicory is similar to coffee. Midday slump- sit somewhere and veg for ten minutes. Have some water and a snack- something along the lines of nuts, crackers and cheese, etc. Fruit juice is good too. All these things are about ten times more effective when you aren't chronically overstimulated.

And yeah, get enough sleep. People are screwed up by thinking eating less or sleeping less is some kind of badge of honour. Really truly you need that extra hour of sleep more than you need that extra hour to study (I figure my brain spends sleep time sorting things out so everything I already know will be easily retrievable the next day, so I'll end up ahead in the end). At least you'll be well rested when you're frantically prepping for a meeting the next day ;)
posted by variella at 11:03 AM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Try drinking Yerba Mate in the afternoon and evening instead of coffee/energy drinks.
And if you need a sugary drink to replace soda, get some nice fruit juice (I like pomegranate, but it's kind of intense).
posted by oinopaponton at 11:09 AM on July 22, 2009

Seconding variella's advice. I went cold turkey a few months back since I was too lazy to work the schedule for weaning myself. The first few days after really suck; you feel useless, distracted, and you'll get crazy headaches. After that, though, it isn't so bad. You just have to focus on not relapsing.
posted by aheckler at 11:11 AM on July 22, 2009

This may not be for everyone but here's how I'm doing it. I stopped cold turkey (the energy drinks and soda) switched to water and caffeine pills. I know, sounds stupid. But I found with the pills I could easily measure my intake (unlike soda, energy drinks, coffee, etc whose caffeine content varies by volume). I went from 3 x 200 mg pills a day, to 2, to 1, and then started cutting them in half. Total cost was 18 dollars I think for a bottle. I made that up quickly by not paying 2-6 dollars a day for caffeinated beverages.
posted by syntheticfaith at 11:21 AM on July 22, 2009

It sounds like you want to reduce your caffeine intake rather than eliminate it altogether. Going cold-turkey isn't really your plan, then. Besides, caffeine-withdrawal headaches suck, and even after taking painkillers leave me foggy and unable to focus. I've done it both ways, and had much better success with tapering off.

A multi-pronged approach works best for me:

-Set a time after which you won't drink anything with caffeine in it. Begin it in the afternoon and gradually move it earlier and earlier by 1 hour per week.

- Get in the habit of drinking a full glass of water in between each caffeinated drink. So rather than finishing your coffee and then popping open a soda the next time you want something to drink, get a glass of water and drink that first. Staying fully hydrated will help your brain feel better about getting less caffeine. Plus, it's free and it's good for you.

-regular exercise helps clear your head and it also helps me sleep better, so I feel more rested, and don't feel I need so much caffeine. It's a virtuous cycle.

-if your schedule allows for the possibility of naps, by all means take advantage of that. A 20-minute nap in the early afternoon can be a great thing for productivity the rest of the day.
posted by ambrosia at 11:26 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

+1 for Teeccino. There's several flavours, and you can enjoy it as a drink it it's own right.

Try to work out the times you drink caffeine and why you drink it at that time. For example, if you're having an energy drink late at night because you haven't gotten your coursework done, try to do it earlier on in the day. If you're still up at 2AM (or whatever time) you're going to need an energy drink no matter what you're doing, so try to get the stuff done earlier on in the day.

If you're needing them first thing in the morning, you aren't getting enough sleep, or maybe sleep of a high enough quality. This might be because you're still hopped up on the energy drink you had last night, so you didn't get enough rest while you're unconscious. Or maybe you just got up too early.

Getting enough quality sleep is essential, and if you don't get that, you'll be groggy, which leads to energy drinks and coffee. As you cut down on the caffeine intake, you'll be able to get better and better sleep, which will lead to increased alertness.

Also, try to work out if you drink any of these drinks for themselves, instead of as a caffeine hit. For example, if you meet a friend at a coffee shop, that latte still counts as caffeine intake.
posted by Solomon at 11:26 AM on July 22, 2009

I grind beans every morning for my daily two cups. Initially, I switched to half/decaf, half regular. Lately, I've been going with just decaf.

Wean yourself off of the caffeine.

The other issue you should address is sugar. As a point of reference, a teaspoon of sugar is roughly 4.2 grams of sugar. Many sports drinks have 19 grams of sugar! That's four and a half teaspoons of sugar in one drink. Sounds crazy, but it's true. Even worse, a 12 ounce can of Coke has 39 grams of sugar! That's nearly TEN TEASPOONS OF SUGAR!!!!

As many above are saying, do whatever you must to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily. Wean yourself off of caffeine over time and it'll be easier, and I highly recommend paying attention to sugar. If you realized how much sugar you put into your body every day, I think you'd be shocked.
posted by 2oh1 at 11:37 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

the 2-3pm nadir that we all hit and blame, mistakenly, on food

This is a good point, but still be conscious of the role sugar may be playing in your energy level. Perhaps try two days approximating the same amount of caffeine intake around the same times, but one day try to eat and drink sugar free. The soda and energy drink crash screws up my energy level, and is compounded by poor food choices.
posted by Muffpub at 11:37 AM on July 22, 2009

yeah, or what 2oh1 said.
posted by Muffpub at 11:38 AM on July 22, 2009

i've found aggressive levels of hydration help with caffeine withdrawal. also, when i stop or radically lower my caffeine intake, it takes a couple of days for me to get back to normal; often the second night i sleep hardest.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:00 PM on July 22, 2009

i used to drink coffee all day and night. to rationalize what was probably addictive behaviour, ii fancied myself a connoisseur and collected every possible method to make it. i even began roasting beans in a popcorn maker.

i also always used to get sick all the time.

i finally realized i wasn't getting enough sleep (5 or 6 hours just didn't cut it, especially when doing ultramarathons, working full time, writing almost full time).

of course i didn't make the connection between too-much coffee and too-little sleep.

now sleep is a priority and the world is, for the most part, a far more pleasant place.

without intending to stop drinking coffee, my body simply stopped craving it.

i still have a cup when i wake up, but that's really more a part of a writing ritual than anything else.

in short, focus on sleep.
posted by holdenjordahl at 4:04 PM on July 22, 2009

Sleep more! Eat better food! I think those are the best things you can do to get yourself to not need the caffeine.

Being a student does not mean that you need to stay up late. If you need the caffeine to stay awake, that's probably not the best time for you to be awake anyway, and your work is probably suffering because of it. Get a good sleeping and eating routine, and you'll most likely feel better.
posted by that girl at 7:04 PM on July 22, 2009

I got the coffee monkey off my back by having a terrible stomach flu and being unable to hold use my digestive system for a couple of weeks. No fun, but effective.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:11 PM on July 22, 2009

Wait until you get out of grad school. ;)

No, seriously, I ALMOST flunked out of undergrad the semester I tried to quit caffeine. The first week in December, cramming the week before exams, I started drinking hot chocolate. Surprise surprise, I aced the finals.

(It should be noted that later in life I've been diagnosed with multiple sleep disorders, and use supplements and prescriptions to regulate my awake/sleep cycle. 8 hours of sleep a day is more important than almost everyone gives it credit for.)
posted by SpecialK at 10:56 PM on July 22, 2009

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