In my last blog, I have explained how coffee (or more precisely, caffeine) affects our brains, as well as what are the positive sides of consuming it. Here, I’m going to review some of it’s less positive aspects, especially when it comes to overuse.
Since the effects of a cup of coffee gradually weaken in approximately six hour span, more often than not, people tend to reach for their next cup(s) throughout the day in order to sustain or repeat the initial state. This is where it can become problematic, as many find themselves unable to stay off of it. Bear in mind that even decaffeinated coffee is not completely caffeine-free, since the decaffeinating process cannot remove caffeine completely.
Excessive use can lead to what is known as caffeine intoxication, which results in psychological symptoms such as restlessness, nervousness, excitement and insomnia, as well as incoherent flow of thought and speech, and periods of inexhaustibility and agitation. Furthermore, those who do try to stop or dramatically reduce their coffee intake, usually experience withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, jitters and a racing heartbeat, tremors, fatigue, nervousness, irritability, difficulty concentrating and depressed mood. By that, it can also affect sleep and work quality. Although these symptoms may be very unpleasant, they are only transitory.
American Psychological Association offers some research-based tips related to coffee consumption:
–Delay your coffee for at least an hour after waking up. Caffeine isn’t really needed then because soon after waking your body naturally produces cortisol which acts as an energy booster
-Consider drinking it only when you really need a boost. For example, before a studying session or a long drive
–Time your caffeine intake as it can interfere with sleep. Consumed as long as six hours before bedtime, it can reduce sleep by an hour and also interfere with sleep efficiency and REM patterns
–Cutting back on coffee gradually should help diminish the withdrawal symptoms
Nataša Nikolić is a student from Serbia, currently completing her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology at the University of Novi Sad. Her main goal would be to combine two of her major passions – psychology and art/design. She is participating in a summer internship programme at Willingness.com.mt.