Why You Need to Reconsider Your Caffeine Addiction

It’s Monday. You spent your weekend with the hopes of studying, but most of your time was just dedicated to late-night Netflix. Even with your languid weekend, you wake up exhausted. You press the button on your Keurig and the luscious caffeine aroma fills the room. You think, “But first- coffee.”

Or maybe it's Thursday night and you have a midterm the next day. All you needed was a Starbucks Venti Chai to have the strength to continue your studying. Down a cup, and you’re set for the next 4 hours, so you can ace this exam.

But you might not drink tea or coffee, due their taste or teeth staining. Yet, nothing can hold you back from chugging a can of Coke at lunch everyday just to get over the midday hump.

Here’s why you should reconsider your caffeine habit.

Now- granted, I’ll give my disclaimer. I don’t drink caffeine (well, not often). I’m naturally energetic, and I follow a strict sleep schedule, so my body is accustomed to always having adequate amounts of sleep. Caffeine also makes me crazy. Even if its a placebo, caffeine always makes me feel jumpy, and so I don’t really like to have any in my system. But the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve had to defend my choice to not drink caffeine.

Here’s the science I hold to:

I’m going to get a little physiological and biological with you- bear with me. Caffeine molecules bind to the outside of your cells and deactivate an enzyme called phosphodiesterase (PDE). PDE’s purpose is to “turn off” cAMP. cAMP, for the sake of simplicity, is a kind of body energizer.  Extra cAMP floating around triggers your sympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as your “flight or fight response”, which results in your heart beating faster and increasing blood pressure. Your body feels more awake because there’s more blood flow to all parts of your body, especially your brain.

Here’s the problem.

PDE’s purpose is to turn off your “energizer”, cAMP. So, increasing levels of PDE and therefore decreasing levels of cAMP means your body is telling you, “Hey you dumb hoe, we need more sleep/stress-relief/less work because I am tired/stressed/done.” Therefore, when you use caffeine to turn off PDE, you’re essentially telling your body, “I’m don’t want to listen to you.”

In this day and age, body positivity, self-care, and self-love are popular and important trends. Most of these efforts focus on mental health (which is a fantastic thing, of course) and physical self-image (duh, this is also a great effort). What about internal self-love? Maybe it’s weird to think about kissing your kidneys or hugging your heart, but we should listen to our bodies. Not only should we be aware of our emotions and thoughts, but also our physical feelings. It’s so common today that are soon as we feel physical pain, discomfort, and in this case, tiredness, that we immediately ignore the feeling by popping some iBuprofen or drinking some caffeine.

To circle back to my initial conversation, people who think they “need” their Starbucks should reconsider. Sure, you feel like you need caffeine because your body is dependent on the physiologic stress caffeine causes, but you shouldn’t need anything to make you feel normal. Ask yourself why you are drinking your caffeine and always be mindful of what is going on inside your body when have caffeine in your system. Understand why you do what you do, and change if your reasons make you uncomfortable.

Now, I can’t sit on my high horse and tell all my caffeine addicts to quit cold turkey. Caffeine withdrawal is not easy and with how habitual and accessible caffeine is, kicking your habit will be difficult. But try it out. Go decaf if you still want a hot drink. Sleep more and sleep at the same time every night. Do things that naturally awake your body in the morning: exercise, take morning showers, listen to music, etc. Lean into the tired- it’s ok to feel tired and not 100%. You don’t have to be 100% every day! You can still hussle and be tired I promise. Just don’t make sleep deprivation a common occurrence.

Once you wean yourself off caffeine, you can use it as an effective ‘body hack’. Your body becomes accustomed to caffeine’s effects when you drink on a daily basis, so this body hack is essentially inaccessible. But  when you take caffeine on an inconsistent basis (once or twice a week, month, etc), you can use caffeine to your advantage. When you didn’t sleep well the night before but you have to study, work, and be on your game specifically on that day, drink the Red Bull! You’ll feel the caffeine kick in way more than you did before.

In conclusion, the main takeaway of this article is to make caffeine your backup plan, not your master. Live a life full of love and listening to your body. Your body has kept running this long, and will be able to continue its journey without caffeine. There’s nothing wrong in changing a habit for greater health, self-understanding, and independence.

Photo Source 1, 2, 3, 4