How Much is Too Much?
Although every body reacts to caffeine differently, experts recommend that you consume no more than 600 mg of caffeine a day. Caffeine can come in many forms and quantities. A cup of regular strength coffee has between 95-200 mg, sodas have between 20-70 mg, and energy drinks like Monster and Rockstar have 80-200 mg. It only takes a few drinks to push your body’s limits and risk caffeine addiction.
How Caffeine Addiction Works
Like many stimulants, caffeine increases the production of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that activates pleasure centers in the brain, and it is believed to be one of the reasons that caffeine possesses such an addictive quality.
The other problem with overdoing the caffeine (particularly coffee and soda) is that it can have a drastic effect on your natural sleep cycle. Adenosine, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that promotes sleep, is important for the body to achieve natural, deep sleep. The half-life of caffeine in the body is about six hours, which means that a 100 mg cup of coffee will take twelve hours to leave the system. During that time, your body may need to sleep, and you may be able to, but the caffeine in your system will supress the adenosine and make deep sleep impossible.
If the body doesn’t get its deep sleep, we overcome our grogginess with, you guessed it, more caffeine. Which, in turn, makes deep sleep harder and harder, until we’re dependent on caffeine to get through the day. This is why ninety percent of Americans consume caffeine multiple times a day: once the body depends on caffeine a few times, it must keep consuming it. Caffeine addiction is difficult to overcome because if you stop drinking coffee altogether, your body will experience mild withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, exhaustion, and irritability. These negative effects often send people back to the cup of joe, even if they don’t want to drink it.
How to Give Up Caffeine
If you’re trying to kick the caffeine habit but find yourself irritated and exhausted, try one or a combination of these solutions to help you cut back:
- Cut back slowly: Instead of giving up caffeine cold turkey, add up your coffee intake for one day and cut it by a third the next day. Try that for a few days, and then cut it in half until you’re consuming a healthier amount (or none at all!)
- Switch to tea: Most tea has much less caffeine than coffee or soda, which may help ease your body off of caffeine. Tea also has a lot of health benefits such as antioxidants, which makes it a better morning kickstart than a soda.
- Stay hydrated: Coffee is a diuretic which can make you feel dehydrated, so replace your afternoon coffee with iced water. This will help you stay hydrated and less tired from being dehydrated.
- Regulate sleep: Instead of using caffeine to keep yourself up in the morning, try to regulate your sleeping by going to bed at a decent hour and getting 7-9 hours. If you find yourself unable to sleep because you’re used to staying up late, try exercising and being active throughout the day so that you’ll be able to unwind at night.