There are several signs and symptoms experienced by people when they quit caffeine.
If a body is dependent on caffeine, eliminating it from the diet may lead to symptoms that might begin within 12-24 hours. Caffeine withdrawal is a medical diagnosis and is known to affect anyone who consumes caffeine regularly.(3)
Signs and Symptoms of Caffeine Withdrawal
The common caffeine withdrawal symptoms include the following.
Headache is the most common symptom experienced by people on caffeine withdrawal.
Caffeine causes the blood vessel to constrict leading to the slowing down of the blood flow.(4) Stopping caffeine all at once allows the blood vessel to open up, which increases the blood flow to the brain. This sudden change in the blood flow may cause withdrawal headaches. This headache may vary in length and severity.
Gradually, as the brain adapts to the change in the blood flow, the withdrawal headache may decrease.
Caffeine is often used by many in the treatment of migraine headaches. It enhances the power of pain-relieving medications and reduces headaches when consumed on its own.(5)
A cup of tea or coffee for many acts as an energy booster.
Caffeine is known to increase alertness and can be helpful in reducing fatigue by blocking receptors for adenosine that are responsible for making a person drowsy.(6) Its energizing effects may last for 4-6 hours. Therefore, its consumption increases to multiple cups.
Stopping caffeine in the diet may have opposite effects. It may bring in feelings of fatigue and drowsiness.
A study was done on 213 habitual caffeine consumers. It showed that keeping away from caffeine for 16 hours increased the feeling of fatigue. Also, it was found that the people consuming caffeine daily had more severe symptoms than those who consumed it once or twice a week.(7)
Those who are sensitive to caffeine, with just a cup of it may feel jittery and anxious. Caffeine can cause anxiety in some, but may also cause symptoms if withdrawn.
Additionally, if someone is in a habit of consuming caffeine in sodas or other sugar-sweetened beverages, the intensity of anxiety can be even more.
An animal study showed removing sugar from the diet after consuming it regularly can cause symptoms of anxiety.(8)
Difficulty in Concentration
Caffeine is consumed commonly to boost concentration. It helps in improving focus.
Caffeine increases the level of adrenaline, a hormone produced by adrenal glands in response to stress.(9) Caffeine increases the activity of excitatory neurotransmitter dopamine and norepinephrine which raises heart rate and blood pressure, increasing alertness and improving focus.(10)
Caffeine elevates the mood by blocking adenosine. A study evaluated the short-term effect of coffee and found that people who consumed caffeinated beverages experienced greater improvement in mood after 30 minutes.(11)
If stopped it can hit back and give a low or depressed feeling.
Some people feel irritated or cranky before they take their morning cup of coffee or tea. Caffeine may be the culprit to blame here.
The effect of caffeine lasts for 4-5 hours, withdrawal overnight may bring in irritability.
Those who drink caffeine regularly are used to its mood-enhancing effects and the boost in energy. Weaning from caffeinated beverages may cause them to get moody.
A study was done on 94 caffeine-dependent adults, 89% of participants reported unsuccessful attempts of quitting caffeine due to withdrawal symptoms including irritability and anger.(14)
People with serious dependency on caffeine may experience tremors in case of withdrawal.(3)
As caffeine is a nervous system stimulant, feeling jittery, anxious, and having shaky hands can be its common side effects.(15)
People with anxiety disorders are advised against consuming caffeinated beverages for avoiding the worsening of symptoms.(16)
Tremors related to caffeine withdrawal may last for 5-9 days and mostly are seen occurring in hands.(17)
How to Reduce Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms?
The caffeine withdrawal symptoms usually last from 2-9 days with the symptoms being worse in the 24-51 hours of cutting out caffeine. The symptoms are mostly short-lived but may make a person very uncomfortable.
But there are ways to reduce the chances of experiencing these effects, which may include:
- Cutting Back Slowly: Quitting caffeine intake slowly may give the body a chance to adjust to the change. Gradual weaning may reduce the chances of side effects.
- Reduced caffeinated beverages: If drinking full-strength caffeine, cutting down to half-strength may slowly reduce the dependence.
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking enough water and hydrating the body can prevent the symptoms from worsening.
- Get Enough Sleep: One can fight fatigue by completing the recommended sleep of 7-9 hours every day.
- Adopt Natural Energy Boosters: If caffeine withdrawal has taken a toll on the energy, try incorporating natural sources of energy including exercise, eating a well-balanced diet, and adopting other stress-reducing techniques.
Caffeine is widely used and has benefits linked to its reduced intake. Its withdrawal symptoms can be reduced by gradually tapering it off.
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