How Long Does Caffeine Withdrawal Last?
People primarily consumed caffeinated products to improve alertness, wakefulness and mood performance. Some of the natural resources of caffeine are coffee, tea and cocoa beans. It could also be found on some foods, drinks, medicines and supplements as being developed by the manufacturers.
Consuming it regularly may result to addiction and when suddenly stop, withdrawal symptoms may occur. Like if you’re consuming two or more cups a day, it can cause you a physical, psychological and emotional symptoms. American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) considers caffeine intoxication and withdrawal as mental disorders.
But what are these withdrawal symptoms and how long does caffeine withdrawal last?
Symptoms starts within 12 to 24 hours after quitting caffeine intake, peaking during its first two days and can even last all the way up to nine. If you’re a high dosage drinker and experiencing withdrawal symptoms, it will take three days of regular caffeine consumption. If you consumed it again during your withdrawal period it can reverse the symptoms within 30 to 60 minutes.
At some point, duration of caffeine withdrawal varies from person to person. The more caffeine intake, the worse withdrawal experience is. Even a habitual small cup of coffee a day can produce withdrawal symptoms. Below are the common caffeine withdrawal symptoms.
- Headache. This is the most common symptom occurring in about 50% of the people. Consuming higher dosage of caffeine can trigger headaches. If you long used ingesting caffeine and quitting after regular consumption, a bigger chance for you to experience intense, migraine-like headache. Chemically, caffeine is a fat-and water-soluble molecule that crosses our blood-brain barrier where it constricts and narrows our blood vessels. When your blood vessels are constricted it causes blood flow reduction that helps reducing pain brought by migraine. But if one day, you decided to suddenly quit your caffeine consumption, then your blood vessel will also suddenly grow thus, increasing blood flow. And this increase in blood flow can increase painful, throbbing headache.
If your headache is due to caffeine withdrawal then it can last in a quite some time. Some people use it as treatment but be careful not to consume it more than your previous consumption. But don’t worry, your headache should subside once your brain adapts the change in blood flow.
- Fatigue. Caffeine prevents fatigue and increases alertness by blocking adenosine receptors in our brain, a neurotransmitter that slows down our central nervous system when we want to sleep. This is why most people drink this in the morning to keep them awake and alert throughout the day. Again, if you abruptly quit caffeine intake you can experience the opposite effect and make you even more tired during the day.
- Mood Swing. Low dosage of caffeine helps improve mood and reduces anxiety. But moderate to high consumption can trigger jitteriness and nervousness. These are all because of dopamine, glutamate and norepinephrine, the neurotransmitters causing mood changes due to caffeine.
Scientifically, dopamine activates pleasure and regulates emotions and behaviors. Glutamate promotes communication among cells and activates learning and memory. On the other hand, when your brain produces norepinephrine, you can sense danger or the fight or flight response and it increases heart rate, breathing rate and blood glucose levels. And when you suddenly quit caffeine intake, it may cause dramatic change in these chemicals that can lead you to anxiety, depression or irritability.
- Lack of focus. Caffeine interacts with certain chemicals in your brain, so a greater possibility it can affect your concentration and memory. In a 2019 study, they found that an intake of just 80 mg of caffeine can cause improvement in memory and reduces response time. It is also observed that regular caffeine intake may lower risk of dementia in women aged 65 and older.
If you experience difficulty in concentration after quitting caffeine intake, that is because the absence of caffeine, its adenosine molecules promotes feelings of fatigue affecting your concentration ability.
How are these caffeine withdrawal symptoms happen?
Since caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant it decreases drowsiness and keeps you awake. It boosts other hormones and neurotransmitters that constrict blood flow to the brain. These withdrawal symptoms happen as your brain works to adjust functioning without the presence of caffeine.
How long does caffeine withdrawal last?
Luckily, caffeine withdrawal does not last very long and are relatively mild. It typically appear within 12-24 hours after quitting and can last up to nine days.
How to cope on these withdrawal symptoms?
You can prevent these withdrawal symptoms by gradually reducing your caffeine intake over time. According to studies, gradually quitting intake over a period of 6-weeks can lead to a long-term caffeine cessation with minimal side effects.
You may try the following to avoid caffeine withdrawal symptoms:
- Gradually reduce your caffeine intake. Quitting caffeine intake can cause dramatic changes to your brain chemistry affecting your mood, cognitive ability and physical well-being.
- Find an alternative for caffeine. If you drink coffee regularly, you may shift to decaffeinated coffee or if you’re a multiple cup drinker you may replace one more decaf.
- Get more sleep. Sleep enough to avoid fatigue. If you are wee-rested, it help reduce your body’s dependence on caffeine.
- Drink more water. Keeping hydrated is essential as dehydration leads to headaches and fatigue.