Caffeine withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant to say the least. Before you go ahead and give up your daily java, you're probably wondering what kind of coffee withdrawal timeline you can expect.
When will you start to feel symptoms? When will they be at their worst? How long will they last?
Here's what you should know before you say ciao to your morning cup of joe, along with how to get rid of caffeine withdrawal.
Your Caffeine Withdrawal Timeline
Caffeine is the most commonly used drug in the world, and many people who use it become dependent on it, according to a September 2013 comprehensive review in the Journal of Caffeine Research.
This dependency — while not a true addiction, per the Cleveland Clinic — can make it hard to quit caffeine. Indeed, trying to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as headache and nausea is one of the most common reasons why people continue drinking caffeine.
To understand caffeine withdrawal, first consider how your body metabolizes this drug. After you consume it, you can feel the effects of caffeine (increased alertness, reduced tiredness) about 15 minutes later, per the Cleveland Clinic. Caffeine stays in your system for the next few hours, sometimes taking as long as 10 hours to be fully out of your bloodstream.
This is why withdrawal symptoms can set in as quickly as 12 hours after your last dose of caffeine, though it could take up to 24 hours for some people. How long you experience caffeine withdrawal will vary from person to person, but you will likely feel symptoms over the course of the next two to nine days. In general, the more caffeine you regularly drink, the worse your withdrawal is likely to be.
You might feel withdrawal in the form of a headache, fatigue, difficulty focusing or concentrating, muscle pain, nausea or irritability.
Just remember that caffeine withdrawal is unpleasant but not dangerous, and the symptoms will go away eventually.
How to Cope With Caffeine Withdrawal
The best way to reduce caffeine withdrawal symptoms is to gradually cut back on the amount you're drinking, per the Cleveland Clinic. You might think that you want your caffeine withdrawal length to be as short as possible, but stretching it out longer will mean it is less severe.
Consult your doctor if you suffer from anxiety, depression, heart disease or another condition before stopping caffeine cold turkey.
1. Note How Much Caffeine You're Drinking
Determine how much caffeine you take in each day by recording your intake for several days in a notebook. Include caffeine from drinks as well as less obvious sources, such as medications, chocolate and other foods.
Knowing how much you take in will help you create a plan to gradually cut back in order to minimize withdrawal symptoms.
2. Go Slow
Try replacing every other cup of coffee or tea with a cup of decaf, suggests the Mayo Clinic. Eliminate one caffeinated beverage per day for a few days before cutting out additional caffeine. After several days, eliminate a second drink or other source of caffeine.
It's important to bear in mind, however, that decaf doesn't mean free of caffeine. Decaf coffees and teas have less caffeine, but it hasn't been completely eliminated. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration notes that decaf coffee might have 2 to 15 milligrams of caffeine per 8-ounce cup, so if you're extremely sensitive to caffeine, you should aim to cut these beverages eventually too.
3. Stay Hydrated
Aim to drink plenty of water, per the Cleveland Clinic, as becoming dehydrated could worsen your headache or other withdrawal symptoms. Other caffeine-free beverage options include:
- Herbal tea and coffee
- Fruit juice
- Hot apple cider
4. Check for Other Sources of Caffeine
Some common painkillers have caffeine, per the Mayo Clinic. If you take these regularly, check the ingredients on the bottle, and consider switching to caffeine-free pain relievers.
5. Prioritize Sleep
Allow yourself extra rest while going through caffeine withdrawal. This will help combat the fatigue associated with stopping caffeine.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Caffeine”
- Food and Drug Administration: “Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine Is Too Much”
- Mayo Clinic: "Caffeine: How Much is Too Much?"
- Journal of Caffeine Research: "Caffeine Use Disorder: A Comprehensive Review and Research Agenda"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Caffeine: How to Hack It and How to Quit It"