We all experience anxiety at some point in our lives. Anxiety is a very common response to stressful life events such as moving to a different city, attending a new school, getting more responsibilities at work, having financial troubles, etc.
A little bit of anxiety is fine, but long-term anxiety may cause serious damage to your health and increase the risk of developing chronic physical conditions beyond the impact on your mental health. Everybody has different coping mechanisms when dealing with stressful situations, but if anxiety becomes larger than the events that triggered it and begins to interfere with your life, caffeine might be the one to blame.
You may have heard before that caffeine is often bad for people with anxiety. Keep reading and find out why and how you can continue to enjoy coffee while minimizing the anxiety inducing effects of caffeine.
First, What Is Caffeine?
Caffeine is most commonly found in tea, coffee and cacao plants, and is used widely across the world in food, drinks, and even some medicines. Caffeine is in so many products that people often forget that it is in fact a powerful stimulant and a psychoactive drug.
Caffeine works by stimulating your central nervous system, which gives you a boost of energy and helps you stay alert.
The Link Between Caffeine and Anxiety
But Caffeine does more than just keep you awake. When you’re under pressure or anxiety, it can make you feel more intensely because caffeine also causes your body to produce stress hormones, such as adrenaline, which trigger your ‘fight or flight’ response.
This fight or flight response is useful when you’re in a dangerous situation, but it is less helpful when going for a job interview, a client meeting or giving a presentation.
Elevated levels of stress hormones like adrenaline cause you to feel more irritable and susceptible to make quick and irrational decisions. Even if you may not be conscious of it, there’s a good chance that caffeine is affecting you in many unexpected ways.
The long-term activation of the stress-response system and overexposure to stress hormones can put you at increased risk of many health problems, including difficulty sleeping or insomnia, weight gain, digestive problems, heart disease, and anxiety and depression.
Insomnia and Anxiety: A Vicious Cycle
Have you ever tossed and turned and been unable to fall asleep at night? The clock turns to 1AM, 2AM, 3AM... and when you finally fall asleep, a little noise in the house can easily bring you back awake?
The way caffeine affects your sleep quality depends on many factors including your weight, anxiety level, age, sensitivity to caffeine, and other genetic factors. This is why some people can drink a cup of tea right before bed, while others need to completely cut off caffeine to avoid sleep disturbance.
Caffeine affects sleep in many ways and can cause shorter total sleep time, worsen perceived sleep quality, and can increase light sleep while decreasing deep sleep time, causing you to wake up more frequently at night.
To make things worse, for people who consume caffeine on a daily basis caffeine can actually alter the brain’s chemistry and physical characteristics over time. Over the course of a day, the brain produces a neurotransmitter called adenosine, a chemical that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycles. Caffeine disturbs your sleep quality because it blocks the effectiveness of adenosine.
It’s well documented that sleep disturbances are strongly linked with increased anxiety. Caffeine fuels your anxiety level during the day, and it’s not unusual for anxious thoughts to continue circling through your head like a broken record and make sleeping difficult.
In return, sleep deprivation can elevate anxiety further, creating a vicious cycle that repeats itself.
Caffeine is not the only driver of anxiety, and it may not be the trigger, but caffeine acts like a multiplier and can put you into a crisis mode, negatively affect your sleep quality, and make anxiety symptoms even worse.
Everybody has a different tolerance when it comes to caffeine, but if anxiety has become an ongoing issue for you, it might be worth taking a break on caffeine to see if it helps.
If you’re convinced that caffeine barely affects you, it might be an interesting experiment to see how your body reacts to a few days off. If you are a regular coffee drinker and experience headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, depressed mood, irritability, tremors, low energy when you stop drinking coffee, caffeine might be affecting you more than you think because the symptoms above are commonly linked to caffeine withdrawal.
You Don’t Have to Quit Coffee to Quit Caffeine
Coffee is so much more than just caffeine. As a coffee lover myself, I love coffee for more than just its caffeine boost. I enjoy the smell, taste, and ritual of drinking freshly brewed coffee, the warmth of the cup in my hands, and the feeling of joy in my heart when I take that first sip. If you’re a coffee lover like me, you may find decaffeinated coffee (“decaf”) a healthier alternative.
Decaf coffee has gained a bad reputation in the past from roasters that relied on cheap, low quality beans. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Decaf coffee can taste just as good as regular coffee with proper care. While other coffee companies put most of their focus on regular coffee, Cupper only focuses on decaf coffee.
At Cupper, we have strict standards about where our coffees are sourced from and whether proper roasting profiles are developed for decaffeinated coffee beans. We only feature coffees that pass our intense taste test (“cupping”) and put our full recommendation behind each coffee we sell.
As coffee lovers who happen to be sensitive to caffeine, we are dedicated to changing the bad reputation of decaf coffee. To us, decaf coffee isn't just about cutting out caffeine, it's about enjoying more of the coffee you love, whenever you want to.