How Do I Wean Myself From Caffeine?

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation


If it isn’t agreeing with you or it’s risky for your health, take these steps to cut back.

C’mon, fess up: Are you a java junkie? Is all the caffeine you’re consuming good for your body and mind? As much as you love the kick that you get from caffeine, there may be circumstances where you’d be better off reducing your intake, consuming it only in the morning, or quitting it altogether. These include...

You’re Sensitive to It: Caffeine affects people differently, so just because an afternoon or evening cup of coffee won't affect your spouse's sleep doesn't mean that it won't affect yours.  Remember that caffeine is a powerful stimulant and its effects can last for up to seven hours.

You’re Pregnant. There isn’t a definitive answer in terms of how much caffeine is considered safe to drink during pregnancy. Some women—especially those who are sensitive to the stimulant—choose to have none or switch to decaf (which contains very little caffeine) to be extra cautious. But some experts say that it's safe to drink up to about 150 milligrams (the amount you'll typically find in an eight-ounce cup of single-serve coffee or about half of a "tall" Starbucks coffee). More than that could be risky for your pregnancy and developing baby. Ask your doctor what's best for you.

It Gives You the Jitters: Does the stimulant make you feel on edge? Since caffeine is a stimulant that can rev up your central nervous system, even a little bit can be problematic for those who are super sensitive.

You Take Certain Meds: Some antibiotics, anticoagulants, antidepressants, asthma drugs and others can interact with caffeine, leading to changes in how the drug is metabolized or increasing the risk of unpleasant side effects.

You’re Going Broke: If you buy coffee on-the-go, a couple of bucks here and there may not seem like a big deal, but they add up! This is purely subjective—track your spending habits for a week or two and you be the judge.

If any of these scenarios applies to you, it may be time to wean yourself from caffeine. But remember: Cutting back on caffeine can be tricky, because if you decrease your intake abruptly or quit cold turkey, you can end up with killer headaches, serious fatigue, irritability, and other mood changes. That’s why it’s smart to decrease your consumption gradually. If you typically drink coffee throughout the day, try limiting yourself to one cup in the morning. Later in the day, you could have tea (which contains much less caffeine) or herbal or decaffeinated tea. Get in the habit of reading labels to see if sodas or foods that you enjoy (like chocolate or certain ice cream flavors) contain caffeine; if they do, find appealing substitutes.

If you truly love the taste of coffee and don’t want to give it up, try switching to decaf, which will give you the taste you crave without the jolt. You can make the transition painlessly over the course of a week. The first day, drink your usual amount of coffee; on days two through five, have yours with 50 percent regular coffee and 50 percent decaf; on day six, make it 25 percent regular coffee and 75 percent decaf; on day seven, start drinking 100 percent decaf...and stick with it.