I gave up caffeine and here’s what happened to my sleep #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

does giving up caffeine equal better sleep?

 

Up until quite recently, I was sleeping like a baby – waking every few hours, wide awake at 3am and persistently wailing and grouchy. Until, that is, I gave up caffeine, and now my sleep is so, so much better. Like, most nights I now get a good solid night’s sleep. After months without it. it’s absolutely golden.

I’m not saying that if you give up caffeine then you will start to sleep through the night too. There are many reasons why sleep can be disturbed, and caffeine may only be a contributing factor. But you might. It can’t hurt to give it a try. And especially if you have problems with anxiety, caffeine is bad news (this is why I gave it up – the sleep thing was just a bonus).

The relationship between caffeine and anxiety has been studied extensively by scientists. Just last month, a study in Barcelona found that long-term caffeine use worsens anxiety symptoms and the fear of the new associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Don’t forget that it’s not just tea and coffee we’re talking about – caffeine is also present in cola drinks, chocolate and some medicine. Hence it is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug.

I did a lot of research into this when I was writing my book about driving anxiety. A nutritionist told me that caffeine tolerance varies from person to person, and is largely genetically determined. So for some people, it can give a welcome boost, whilst for others even one cup of coffee can make them jittery as all hell. It’s not difficult to work out which one you are. If you fall into the ‘jittery as all hell’ camp, then caffeine is not your friend. And if you are anxious about driving, don’t have any caffeine before you hop behind the wheel.

I always knew I had a fairly low tolerance of caffeine, hence I have always limited it, especially if I know I’m going to be doing something that makes me anxious. But what I realised was that my low tolerance had gone down even further, which meant that even one cup of coffee a day was a problem. It’s part of the fun of your forties, when your body changes how it processes what you put into it, and you have to change your behaviour in order to deal with that.

The good news is that there are plenty of decaff coffees around that taste perfectly respectable. Alas the same cannot be said for decaff tea – most of that is pretty rank. The best one I’ve tasted is from Clipper, but the down side of that is that it’s twice the price of all the rest. Tesco decaff and Yorkshire Tea decaff are not too bad. If I feel tired during the day (which I don’t very often, on account of the improved night sleep) then I have cold water, which is a good pick me up, if less glam than a flat white.

 

Leave a comment – I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Are you a caffeine fan? Would you ever give it up? And can you recommend me a good decaff tea, I’m still searching

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  • I have always been really lucky that caffeine hasn’t made me particularly jittery. I do have to make sure I don’t drink coffee first thing in the morning without eating first as I get terrible stomach pains though. Really interesting that your sleep is so much better now.

    • Coffee can cause digestion problems because it’s acidic (it’s not just the caffeine that’s to blame for this, decaff can cause similar problems too). I tend to start the day with a decaff tea or sometimes sliced lemon in hot water, which is kind of bracing. Thanks for reading and commenting Helen, glad you enjoyed the post!

  • I can’t be much help I’m afraid as I don’t like tea or coffee, so I’m always drinking water anyway. However I often take a couple of pro plus caffeine pills in the afternoon to keep me going. It probably isn’t good for me, but I feel better for it and I don’t have trouble sleeping most of the time. (As long as the hubby isn’t snoring!)
    Do you think you could get used to the fruit infusion teas? I like the berry ones most. Anyway, good luck with your quest to find the best decaf!
    Helen x

    • Well as I mentioned above, for many people caffeine isn’t a problem UNLESS you have some sort of anxiety or sleep issues, so hopefully you fall into the category of being completely fine. Although I would be slightly cautious because if you are regularly feeling tired early in the day, that can be an indicator of another health problem such as too much iron in the blood. Or maybe something simple like too many carbs at lunch – that’s what makes me feel sleepy.
      Yes I do like fruity teas, and the herbal ones such as peppermint or cinnamon. I tend to have those in the evening, there are some really nice ones around now.

      • Yes! Tesco’s apple and cinnamon is one of my favourites!
        (And yes, there is another problem – I have hypothyroid disease which makes me tired all the time, so I need all I can to stay awake!) I have bouts of insomnia every now and then and I stay away from the pro-plus then.
        I’m glad you’ve found a way to help reduce the anxiety 🙂
        Helen x

  • Luckily caffeine doesn’t seem to have too much impact on me, I tend to have the Yorkshire tea decaf though which I enjoy. Mich x

    • You and me both Mich! I’ve got a cup of it on the go right now. You’re lucky if caffeine doesn’t affect you, I wish I was the same.