Self Improvement

3 Caffeine Facts & How to Quit

03/30/16 ·

Over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed in the world every day. Scientists agree that a safe threshold for caffeine intake is 400 milligrams, or approximately 4 cups of 8oz coffee. While most people wouldn’t consider their daily coffee intake an addiction there are some interesting truths to what we know about caffeine and what it does to your body.

What we know about caffeine

1) Caffeine greatly resembles the molecular structure to a chemical in our brain called adenosine. Adenosine attaches to receptors which make us feel tired. As the day progresses adenosine builds up. As we sleep adenosine diminishes. Because caffeine resembles adenosine’s molecular structure so closely it attaches to these receptors instead making us not feel tired. The more we consume caffeine the more receptors are created and thus, the more caffeine we need to consume to bind to those receptors. Check out this video explanation:

It can kill you, but probably won’t

2) Too much caffeine can kill you. If you watched the video, you already knew that. The issue it pointed out was that getting to that threshold would be pretty difficult if you were strictly drinking your caffeine. Although, there are reports of deaths from consuming caffeine pills. Try out this calculator to see your very own lethal dose!

Caffeine’s Impact on sleep

3) The half life of caffeine is 5-6 hours. Meaning if you drink a coffee containing 100mg of caffeine. Half of it, or 50mg, will be out of your system after 5-6 hours. One study found that consuming caffeine 6 hours prior to bed time reduced total sleep time by 1 hour. Up Coffee app reports that many people can fall asleep with as much as 100mg of caffeine in their system. The question remains, when is a good time to quit drinking caffeine?

Since everyone’s caffeine sensitivity levels are different it’s hard to set a precise number that works for all. As someone with a fairly high sensitivity to caffeine I’ve found that sticking to one cup of coffee in the morning and no afternoon caffeine intake is optimal. A coffee at 3-4pm usually made it much more difficult to fall asleep around my usual 11pm or 12am bedtime. A good rule of thumb is to stop consuming caffeine around 2pm. This gives heavy caffeine user’s bodies enough time to metabolize their caffeine a little after dinner time.

For example, Joe John consumes 200mg of caffeine and takes his last sip just before 2pm. By 7pm/8pm his body now has around 100mg of caffeine left. As he prepares for bed at 10:30pm (he has to be up early) his body will be under the 100mg threshold and he shouldn’t have any issues falling asleep.

How to quit caffeine

Caffeine withdrawal is serious. For anyone who maintains a steady stream of coffee or energy drinks each day it is no laughing matter when they go without for a day. The best way to quit taking caffeine is not cold turkey but rather to taper off of it. Reduce the amount of caffeine you consume over one to two weeks time.

For example, if you consume three cups of coffee a day and you quit all at once you won’t be able to funciton the next day. If your headache isn’t enough to stop you in your tracks it will be your irritability or lethargy. Instead set out a plan like this:

  • Day One: 3 cups
  • Day two: 2 1/2 cups, other half decaf
  • Day three: 2 1/2 cups, other half decaf
  • Day four: 2 cups
  • Day five: 1 1/2 cups, other half decaf
  • Day six: 1 1/2 cups, other half decaf
  • Day seven: 1 cup
  • Day eight: 1 cup
  • Day nine: 1 cup half caff
  • Day ten: 1 cup half caff
  • Day eleven: Decaf

That’s it! It might seem kind of drawn out but this is an effective way to get off caffeine with little to no discomfort. The supplementing decaf when you go to half a cup is so the coffee maintains its strength. I like to include the decaf on the last day just to make sure. It would probably be safe to stop after day ten but breaking the habit of actually drinking coffee is tough for some so maybe switching to decaf is your goal.