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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Emergency Post - Caffeine

Right now, some of you might be hitting a wall. If you’re feeling sluggish, dopey, irritable, headachy and generally tapped out, you’re probably going through caffeine withdrawal.

Caffeine, while seemingly innocuous, is the most widely consumed mood altering drug in the world. Of course we don’t think of it as a drug – certainly not during the morning ritual of putting up the first pot or hitting the neighborhood coffee house for a double whackucino on the way to work. It never crosses our minds that we may be addicted when we gulp down a cola, an energy drink or another cup of coffee or tea during a morning break or on the way to the next meeting. And most of us don’t give a second thought to the caffeine content in the chocolate bar we ravage mid-afternoon – nothing like a caffeine and sugar high combined!

But the truth of the matter is caffeine has us by the short hairs – most American adults have fallen into its vicious cycle of dependence. You know what I’m talking about – you have a bad night of sleep so you wake yourself up with caffeine; you’re tired during the day so you spike up with some more; then you don’t sleep well that night. And on it goes until we don’t know any other way to live. But, when you think about it, being alternately tired or wired equates to low-grade manic depression.

And we can thank caffeine for the condition. Studies have shown that “caffeine can have a disruptive effect on your sleep. The most obvious effect is that it can make it hard for you to fall asleep. This will reduce your total sleep time. Caffeine also can reduce the amount of deep sleep that you enjoy.”1 Before you get all smug thinking, ‘I don’t have caffeine after 5:00 p.m.’ or even after noon, consider that “the effects of caffeine can last anywhere from 8 to 14 hours.”2

So now caffeine’s got you sleep-deprived, what’s next? Gulp down a few more cups and let the games begin – because this is where it gets good. “Studies have shown that high dietary doses of caffeine (200 mg or more)* increase anxiety ratings and induce panic attacks in the general population. Individuals with panic and anxiety disorders are especially sensitive to the effects of caffeine. Although highly anxious individuals tend to be more likely to limit their caffeine use, not all individuals with anxiety problems naturally avoid caffeine, and some may fail to recognize the role that caffeine is playing in their anxiety symptoms.”3

During my first cleanse my panic attacks disappeared. Since then I’ve stayed off caffeine and the panic attacks are a distant memory – it’s been over two years since I’ve had an incident!

You may be in a temporary slump right now, but in a few days you’ll be off the manic caffeine roller coaster for good. You’ll sleep more easily and deeply. You won’t need caffeine to wake up. And the cycle will be broken. Withdrawal typically lasts anywhere from two days to one week so there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Hang in there – some things you’ve just got to gut your way through. But, take it from one who knows – it’ll be worth it!

1,2 By Donald R. Townsend, PhD on www.sleepeducation.com
3 From the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center website, http://www.caffeinedependence.org/
*Approximately 2 6-oz cups of brewed coffee contain 200mg of caffeine

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