Many people rely on caffeine to help them wake up and feel alert throughout the day. However, caffeine can affect your health more than you might think, especially if you are consuming too much of it. While caffeine does stimulate your central nervous system and temporarily make you feel less tired, there are certain drawbacks you should be aware of before you reach for that next cup of coffee.
Side Effects - While consuming caffeine in moderation probably won’t cause any significant health problems, consuming too much of the stuff can lead to noticeable side effects that lower your overall health and are definitely not pleasant.Too much caffeine can cause insomnia and other sleep difficulties, irregular heartbeat, anxious feelings, headaches, restlessness or irritability, and gastrointestinal problems. Those who are particularly sensitive to caffeine may notice these effects even with little or moderate consumption, while those who are used to drinking copious amounts of caffeinated beverages may not notice anything at all. Keep in mind that just because you aren’t experiencing any noticeable side effects from mass caffeine consumption, however, doesn’t mean it isn’t affecting your health in other ways.
Sleep Problems - While your body doesn’t store caffeine, it can take several hours before it has left your system. This can disrupt your sleep patterns or make sleep almost impossible, leaving you sleep deprived. Adults generally need 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep each night to function at optimum levels, and even a night of sleep deprivation can add up over time.
Even if you don’t have trouble falling asleep, caffeine can make you wake up frequently throughout the night, which then leads to you feeling tired the next morning. When this occurs, you’ll probably reach for your morning cup of coffee to help combat a night of fitful sleep. This results in a vicious pattern.
To help restore a normal sleep pattern and feel rested without relying on stimulants, stop your caffeine intake at least 8 hours before you plan to go to bed.
How Much is Too Much?
In small doses, caffeine isn’t likely to cause any significant health concerns. 200-300 milligrams of caffeine each day (the equivalent of 2 to 4 cups of coffee) is appropriate. Heavy caffeine consumption (500 mg or more each day) can take its toll on your body and your health.
If you are worried about your caffeine consumption, there are things you can do to get back on track. Cut back on your caffeine intake, but do it slowly. For example, instead of drinking your usual 6 cups of coffee each day, cut back to 5 cups and slowly move forward until you are within reasonable limits. If you try to cut caffeine out cold turkey (especially if you consume a lot each day,) you will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Slowly cutting back on the stimulant will allow your body to gradually get used to the lower amount.
You should also pay attention to food and beverage labels. There are a lot of surprising items that contain caffeine. Even in small amounts, it can add up. Certain over the counter pain medications can also contain caffeine, so look for a caffeine-free variety.
While moderate amounts of caffeine isn’t likely to cause harm, too much caffeine can take a toll on your health. Avoid consuming mass quantities of stimulant for better sleep and improved overall health.