Sheldon’s Corner: Are You Hooked on Caffeine? How to Cut Back…
On average, Americans are working more and sleeping less. According to Gallup polls, full-time employed citizens work an average of 47 hours per week, which equates to nearly six full days. And of course, more work leaves less time to decompress and sleep properly, precisely why most adults only catch about 6.5 hours of sleep, or 1.5 less than the recommended eight hours. All this fatigue means we reach for more caffeine to stay productive in our over-demanding lives. But caffeine is a drug like any other, and while it may seem harmless, you may be unknowingly hooked. Read ahead for 5 Signs you’re Hooked on Caffeine, and How to Cut Back:
1. You are Always Exhausted
While coffee or soda can give you an extra spring in your step, too much can leave you exhausted by midday. Some call this a “crash” and for good reason. Like any drug, there are both effects and withdrawals, and they often work in opposition to each other. While a healthy amount of caffeine can safely boost your energy levels, too much will just leave you worse off than before. If you are constantly fighting to keep your eyes open at 3 pm, it may be a sign that you’ve gone overboard.
2. You are Freaking Out
According to The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, over 40 million adults struggle with some form of anxiety, making it the most common mental illness in our country. Some common forms are social anxiety, general anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or phobias. While these numbers sound bleak, most cases are highly treatable with different forms of therapy. However, caffeine, being a stimulant, only aggravates anxiety issues. If you are chugging a coffee before an important meeting or interview, you may want to reconsider.
3. You are Tossing and Turning
Modern life comes with a variety of stress. Demands from work, school, or family life can literally keep one up at night. The National Sleep Foundation defines chronic insomnia as “disrupted sleep that occurs at least three nights per week and lasts at least three months.” If you are frequently having to count sheep at night, your java intake may be to blame. Although a coffee buzz only seems to last a few hours, it effects can still linger long after bedtime. And what’s worse, that lack of sleep will only cause you to reach for more coffee in the morning, and thus a vicious cycle is created.
4. Your Head is Pounding
As with any chemical dependency, a sudden decrease or abstinence of usage will result in withdrawal. And the intensity of withdrawal symptoms can provide a good indication of how dependent you actually are. If you are experiencing headaches in the morning before you get your morning fix of joe, you may be hooked, depending on the severity of your symptoms. Also, if you are reaching for some over the counter pain killer meds to relieve the pounding, just read those labels. Some headache medications contain caffeine, which could skyrocket your heart rate and blood pressure when combined with coffee or soda.
5. You Need More than Ever
Have you looked at the sizes of the cups at your coffee shop lately? They keep getting bigger. Even Europeans, who traditionally love coffee, drink far less than Americans when it comes to the actually ounce-for-ounce comparison. That’s because they more often choose small quantity coffees, like espresso and cappuccinos, as opposed the over 20 ounces a cup that Starbucks sells. (A trenta is their latest size–over 30 ounces!) If you are reaching for more and more coffee for the same buzz, you may be addicted.
How to Cut Back:
1. Swap with Green Tea
Green Tea is an excellent alternative to coffee. It still contains caffeine (about 35-70 mg, compared to 150-200 mg in coffee) but with far less of a jolt than the average brew. It is also a great source of antioxidants and has been proven to optimize brain function and aid in fat loss. Some recent studies even suggest it may lower the risk of cancers and other diseases. For maximum results, boil water and steep tea for 3-4 minutes. Add agave or almond milk for a sweet and creamy taste.
2. Try a Morning Workout
If you seek caffeine as a way to wake up every morning, maybe try exercise instead. Just 10-20 minutes of vigorous activity, like a brisk walk or run can boost energy levels all day long. In fact, regular exercisers reportedly experience more mental alertness, greater focus, and sustained energy, which means they rely less on coffee and sodas for the same high. Gym-goers also sleep better, which reduces the need for morning coffee and experience more productivity and a better sex life. That’s some great benefits!
3. Drink Plenty of Water
Dehydration comes with a slew of symptoms, including poor digestion, lack of focus, fatigue, and irritability. If you are unaware of how little water you had on any given day, you may overlook these symptoms and instead grab a coffee or soda to help perk yourself up. The problem with this is that caffeine is a proven diuretic, meaning it causes even more dehydration. If you are experiencing sleepiness of a mental fog, try sipping a few glasses of water first. Most likely your body will be happier and you can forgo the trip to the soda machine.
4. Get enough Shut-eye
You probably keep hearing that sleep is the answer to so many health ailments, from colds to cancer, and it’s true. More and more evidence is proving how healing and beneficial sleep is to our overall wellness. However, it’s continually unrepresented in the health industry simply because it isn’t particularly interesting or marketable. The bottom line is that sleep is incredibly important, and getting enough of it will help wean you off of caffeine, and less caffeine will help you rest more soundly: a win-win situation.
5. Eliminate Sources of Extra Caffeine
While coffee, tea, and sodas are the most obvious sources of caffeine, you’d be surprised to know there are many others. Chocolate contains about 12 mg per ounce, and the darker the chocolate, the more the drug. Dark chocolate bars can contain up to 30, the equivalent of a soda. Other culprits are pain relievers, diet pills, and some ice creams. This is especially troublesome to those who like to curl up in bed with a bowl of Ben and Jerry’s. Choose yogurt, berries, or some herbal tea instead.
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