YANMD but why am I craving coffee?
May 31, 2021 9:03 AM   Subscribe

I quit caffeine a couple months ago after I realized I'd become completely dependent on it. After the first month, I haven't an issue going without, but the last week and a half I've been experiencing some serious fatigue and cravings for coffee.

I had been drinking coffee for years. Most typically I'd have a couple cups of drip coffee in the morning, and then several others throughout the course of the day dependent on workload and stressors. It got so that I was pretty volatile in the morning until I had my morning caffeine. I didn't like being dependent on it to regulate my brain chemistry or how it affected my family so I quit this last January. It's been a really positive change and I haven't missed it until now.

I can't think of anything that would have changed in the last couple weeks. I drink ~72 oz of water a day, take a multi-vitamin, my diet has stayed the same, and I'm getting the same amount of exercise and sleep. I'm not on any other medications and I'm not experiencing any additional external stressors like relationship conflicts or high pressure scenarios at work.

That said, each morning for the last two weeks, I've woken up irritable, out-of-it, and inexplicably craving a hot cup of coffee with cream. What's going on? Follow up question, should I just bite the bullet and grab a coffee? Alternative options that will satisfy the craving and symptoms?
posted by coldbabyshrimp to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
Best answer: Possibly the change in daylight is affecting your circadian rhythm and your sleep cycle isn't quite working with your body any more. We're getting closer to peak daylight and possibly your body wants something different than it did with less daylight.

I am a caffeine addict from way back, and eventually realized that it serves a purpose for me that isn't replaceable, so I cycle on and off it periodically so my tolerance doesn't build up too much, and that works fine. If you decide to have a little coffee, first of all, have a little - ONE cup, not several, in the morning, not throughout the day, until you see how you react. Your tolerance will have disappeared after six months. And you can totally plan to have one cup every morning for a week and then stop, and compare your results, and you won't have nearly the withdrawal you probably did the first time.

That said, if I were you, I would look hard at how sleepy I am at night and in the morning, and possibly try melatonin in the evening to fall asleep faster or something before going back to caffeine, if you got to the point you're describing with it.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:13 AM on May 31, 2021 [3 favorites]

Is decaf an option?
posted by vitout at 9:18 AM on May 31, 2021 [2 favorites]

Addiction is weird you know? I quit cigarettes almost five years ago and never miss it, until suddenly I do one day.

Coffee is different though imo, in that it is more possible to have a moderate habit and in moderation coffee has no health problems (and may actually be good for you). So perhaps consider half caff. For me, half caff is easier to keep at a small amount per day, maybe bc it has less of a kick to set up the addictive reward cycle.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:25 AM on May 31, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Are you by any chance a person who experiences a menstrual cycle? I know the more "typical" PMS cravings are junk food, but maybe this could be related to a hormone shift? Also, there are times where my cycle makes me way more tired than others, so maybe PMS fatigue is making you crave the caffeine?
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:28 AM on May 31, 2021 [4 favorites]

Extinction burst.
posted by aniola at 10:09 AM on May 31, 2021 [3 favorites]

Since you didn't mention it, have you had either Covid or the vaccine, or is there a possibility you've had it and were unaware?

Caffeine has become pretty much a necessity for me on the days I'm dealing with Covid-fatigue on the worse end of the spectrum. Since I wanted to get out of the habit of needing to drink my caffeine, I resorted to adding a single caffeine tablet with my morning medication and supplements, and that's mostly been sufficient at managing to get me up and functioning, except on the really, really bad days, because it doesn't last, and I give in and nap. The second dose of the vaccine has upped the fatigue pretty heavily again, but I'm optimistic it'll relax after my body adjusts, like it did after the first dose.
posted by stormyteal at 11:29 AM on May 31, 2021

> Alternative options that will satisfy the craving and symptoms?

Starbucks Via instant decaf does it for me when I want a cup every now and then. It has a teensy bit of caffeine in it, it smells and tastes like coffee (by my standards; some people will have gasped in horror at "instant"), but it doesn't start me back on coffee drinking.

Do you associate coffee with anything seasonal, like having a cup at a campfire when camping, or grabbing an iced coffee on your way to work?
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:37 AM on May 31, 2021

I went through this too. I learned about extinction burst later but ya. At one point it was easier to count pots then cups for me. Then the weekend headaches started etc. I went cold turkey for awhile and now we brew 8 "cups" which is really 3ish normal coffee cups. That's it. I extremely rarely crave a cup at 3 or 4 so we got a nespresso and make a decaf espresso when the mood strikes. It's been literally years and I've never varied from the 1 cup in the morning thing. I can absolutely skip it (4am flight or whatever) for a day or whatever without penalty and now get the nice perk and 15 minutes of pleasure from a hot cuppa in the morning without any other issues.
posted by chasles at 2:04 PM on May 31, 2021

Best answer: Alternative options that will satisfy the craving and symptoms?

A shot of juiced greens has the same bitterness and acquired taste. I recommend adding a bit of ginger and maybe some lemon. It is also just as annoying as french press coffee to make, which means you get the ritual just like with coffee.
posted by aniola at 3:40 PM on May 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

Possibly the change in daylight is affecting your circadian rhythm and your sleep cycle isn't quite working with your body any more.

It's likely this.

I've been going to bed at 8pm and getting up at 4am since the pandemic began so I can run on an empty Chicago lakefront and I have really had very little problem once I got used to it after about a week. The past week or two however has been awful. I just can't get to sleep until 10pm. My circadian rhythm is suddenly asserting itself really demandingly.
posted by srboisvert at 4:19 PM on May 31, 2021

Did you have a subliminal suggestion - watch a movie or have a situation where your typically enjoy a cup with ? Associations are strong.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:17 PM on May 31, 2021

Since you didn't mention it, have you had either Covid or the vaccine, or is there a possibility you've had it and were unaware?

I was zeroing in on this possibility too. Something's definitely changed, for all of us (in the U.S. in the last few weeks, at least) -- the Great Post-Covid Social Unthawing. Maybe you're simply seeing people more often for the first time since quitting, and socializing is a craving and/or fatigue trigger for you.

In other words, maybe it's that you were fine when things were still "abnormal" (isolation) and now you're having trouble just because things are becoming more "normal".
posted by neckro23 at 7:34 PM on May 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I think it was a combination of a couple or factors. I started taking nightly melatonin and grabbed a green juice when I was feeling the cravings. That's helped a ton.
posted by coldbabyshrimp at 1:55 PM on June 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

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