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Some people are more sensitive to caffeine
than are others. If you’re susceptible to the
effects of caffeine, just small amounts -
even one cup of coffee or tea - may prompt
unwanted effects, such as restlessness and sleep
How you react to caffeine may be determined
in part by how much caffeine you’re used to
drinking. People who don’t regularly drink
caffeine tend to be more sensitive to its
negative effects. Other factors may include
body mass, age, medication use and health
conditions such as anxiety disorders. Research
also suggests that men are more susceptible to
the effects of caffeine than are women.
You’re not getting
enough sleep
Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep
each night. But caffeine can interfere with this
much-needed sleep. Chronically losing sleep
- whether it’s from work, travel, stress or too
much caffeine - results in sleep deprivation.
Sleep loss is cumulative, and even small nightly
decreases can add up and disturb your daytime
alertness and performance.
Using caffeine to mask sleep deprivation can
create an unwelcome cycle. For example, you
drink caffeinated beverages because you have
trouble staying awake during the day. But the
caffeine keeps you from falling asleep at night,
shortening the length of time you sleep.
You’re taking certain
medications and
Certain medications and herbal supplements
may interact with caffeine. Here are some
• Some antibiotics.
Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
and norfloxacin (Noroxin) - types of
antibacterial medications - can interfere with
the breakdown of caffeine. This may increase
the length of time caffeine remains in your
body and amplify its unwanted effects.
• Theophylline (Theo-24, Elixophyllin,
This medication - which opens
up bronchial airways by relaxing the
surrounding muscles (a bronchodilator)
- tends to have some caffeine-like effects.
Taking it along with caffeinated foods and
beverages may increase the concentration of
theophylline in your blood. This can cause
adverse effects, such as nausea, vomiting and
heart palpitations.
• Echinacea.
This herbal supplement, which
is sometimes used to prevent colds or other
infections, may increase the concentration
of caffeine in your blood and may increase
caffeine’s unpleasant effects.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about
whether caffeine might affect your
medications. He or she can say whether you
need to reduce or eliminate caffeine from your
Curbing your caffeine habit
Whether it’s for one of the reasons above - or
because you want to trim your spending on
pricey coffee drinks - cutting back on caffeine
can be challenging. An abrupt decrease
in caffeine may cause caffeine withdrawal
symptoms such as headaches, fatigue,
irritability and nervousness. Fortunately, these
symptoms are usually mild and resolve after a
few days.
To change your caffeine habit more gradually,
try these tips:
• Keep tabs.
Start paying attention to how
much caffeine you’re getting from foods
and beverages. It may be more than you
think. Read labels carefully. Even then, your
estimate may be a little low because not
all foods or drinks list caffeine. Chocolate,
which has a small amount, doesn’t.
• Cut back.
But do it gradually. For example,
drink one fewer can of soda or drink a
smaller cup of coffee each day. Or avoid
drinking caffeinated beverages late in the
day. This will help your body get used to the
lower levels of caffeine and lessen potential
withdrawal effects.
• Go decaf.
Most decaffeinated beverages
look and taste the same as their caffeinated
• Shorten the brew time or go herbal.
When making tea, brew it for less time. This
cuts down on its caffeine content. Or choose
herbal teas that don’t have caffeine.
• Check the bottle.
Some over-the-counter
pain relievers contain caffeine - as much
as 130 mg of caffeine in one dose. Look for
caffeine-free pain relievers instead.
The bottom line
If you’re like most adults, caffeine is a part of your daily routine. And most often it doesn’t pose a
health problem. But be mindful of those situations in which you need to curtail your caffeine habit.
May/June 2013