Caffeine; What Happens When You Miss that Morning Cup of Joe

Caffeine is a drug and regularly consuming just 100 milligrams (mg) of caffeine (about the same amount found in 8 ounces of weak coffee) can cause feelings of withdrawal when you miss your daily cup. If your body is used to daily caffeine, skipping one cup is enough to throw your system off which will caus you to feel fatigued, irritable, and even cause headaches.

Your body produces a chemical called adenosine when you get tired. As these new adenosine molecules bind to the adenosine receptors already in your brain, you start to feel even sleepier. You wake up and you drink a cup of coffee. Caffeine molecules enter your system and bind to those adenosine receptors, giving you an instant energy boost. As your body gets used to the amount of caffeine you consume, it begins to produce and release more adenosine receptors. That means you need more caffeine molecules to give you the same energizing rush as before. But when you skip your coffee or energy drink, all those extra receptors that are usually filled with caffeine are instead filled with extra adenosine. Your brain isn’t accustomed to this new ratio which can lead to fatigue and withdrawal symptoms. In addition to feeling exhausted, expect a headache, too. Caffeine causes your blood vessels to constrict, which reduces blood flow to your brain. So when your brain expects to be flooded with the stimulant, like in the morning when you first wake up, it signals your vessels to dilate and increase blood flow before you even take your first dose or cup. If you don’t drink the java, however, this extra blood volume goes straight to your head, causing a throbbing headache. Missing caffeine can also make your irritable, foggy, anxious, and even depressed, according to a review in the journal Pharmacology. That’s likely due to the same blood flow effects. Usually, you’ll start to feel the effects of skipping a morning dose by mid-afternoon.

If you want to avoid these symptoms altogether, then just stick to your normal morning coffee habit. You might notice, though, that you gradually need more and more ounces to get the same amount of energy.

Want to kick your caffeine habit for good?

Quitting cold turkey is a bad idea. Gradually reduce your daily intake of caffeine by decreasing your intake over a 4-week period. Say you normally drink 4 cups a day. After 1 week, cut back to 3 cups. After two weeks, 2 cups. After 3 weeks, 1 cup. Go caffeine-free at 4 weeks. You may still experience some withdrawal symptoms but nearly as bad as if you were to cut your intake entirely all at once. If you experience some withdrawl symptoms, take ibuprofen, which doesn’t contain any caffeine.

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