If you slam a double espresso before work, order a latte as soon as you get to the office, have a soda with lunch, and sip an energy drink as your preworkout—you likely feel wired. You’re not alone in your love of a cup of joe. According to a 2023 study published in European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, between 80% and 90% of US adults and children have caffeine on a regular basis.1
Still, you’re probably well aware of how bad too much caffeine can make you feel. As SELF previously reported, caffeine can make you jittery and screw with your stomach (the coffee poops are real!). Your sleep schedule might be kind of shitty too.2
You might have reached a point where you’re ready to quit caffeine or, at the very least, cut back on the amount of caffeine you drink. The degree to which you feel better if you quit caffeine depends on how much you’re drinking to begin with, Rachel O’Connor, RD, CDN, an oncology dietician at NewYork-Presbyterian, tells SELF. If you’re consuming over 400 mg of caffeine (about four cups of coffee or two energy shots drinks) per day, that’s considered heavy caffeine use, says O’Connor.
Here are some of the health benefits that you could see if you quit caffeine—some of which you might not have even thought about.
FYI: Before you reap the perks of drinking less coffee, you might feel some gnarly caffeine withdrawal symptoms.
Because caffeine use is pretty common, people might forget that it’s still a drug (a stimulant), and it’s possible to become dependent on it.3 (That often looks like multiple attempts to ditch caffeine without success.4)
“When regular caffeine consumers stop [ingesting it], they often experience withdrawal symptoms for three to seven days,” Jennifer Temple, PhD, a director and researcher at the University at Buffalo specializing in caffeine studies, tells SELF.3
Common withdrawal symptoms include fatigue, headaches, and low energy, says Dr. Temple.3 According to O’Connor, withdrawal symptoms will likely start between 12 and 24 hours after you quit 3 Whether you quit cold turkey or wean yourself off caffeine, grab some OTC headache relief medication.3 Staying hydrated and getting enough rest can make withdrawal symptoms easier to handle too.3
Seven benefits of quitting caffeine
1. You could find that your sleep quality and energy are better.
As you know, caffeine likes to steal your sleep—it can shave about 45 minutes off of your time in dreamland.5,6 If you don’t sleep enough, you might compensate the next day by downing some espresso—which creates a vicious cycle of crappy sleep followed by caffeine use, per a 2023 review published in Sleep Medicine Reviews.6 As SELF previously reported, caffeine can stay in your system for hours, so it’s possible to feel the stimulating effects well into the night.
Some signs caffeine is wrecking your sleep include trouble falling asleep (of course), headaches, nausea, and feelings of nervousness. So if you give up caffeine, you could end up getting much better rest, says Dr. Temple. (People with insomnia might find this to be especially helpful, per the Sleep Foundation.)
It’s worth noting that quitting might not feel so great at first. “Someone’s energy levels will drop when they quit caffeine, at least initially,” says O’Connor, so you might feel daytime drowsiness or sluggishness. It’s hard to say if your energy levels will go back to where they were before you started consuming coffee, but if you tend to drink coffee later in the day and decide to quit, you might simply have more energy because you’re getting more sleep at night, as O’Connor explains.
If your sleep schedule seems to be off after quitting (which it might be for a few days or, sometimes, a few weeks), try to wake up at the same time each day to get yourself on a more consistent track. Trouble falling asleep? Try a guided meditation or some simple pre-bedtime tricks for a more restful night.
2. Headaches might be less of a problem for you.
Caffeine can majorly contribute to daily or chronic headaches. It might also trigger migraine in people who are prone to them, according to the American Migraine Foundation. If you struggle with those, you might think going cold turkey will ease your discomfort—but that’s not always true, thanks to caffeine withdrawal, according to O’Connor. This could look like low energy, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and worsening headaches. Because caffeine narrows blood vessels around the brain, “a sudden lack of caffeine, especially when you’re drinking it daily or drinking a lot of it, can trigger a cascade of events that leads to dilated blood vessels which contribute to the headache,” says O’Connor.
In other words, your headaches will likely get worse before they get better. Gradually decreasing your caffeine intake over a week or two, rather than quitting cold turkey, “could help limit some of that severity,” O’Connor says—you could try slowly swapping your regular coffee for decaf.
3. Your caffeine-related jitters might disappear.
Caffeine might not be the best thing for your mental health: It stimulates the nervous system and can cause anxiety, and people diagnosed with panic disorders are especially vulnerable to feeling on edge following caffeine use.7,8,9
“Some people might have anxiety at baseline that’s exacerbated by caffeine, especially when it’s had in excess,” says O’Connor. For those people, she says that caffeine use might cause muscle tremors, a fast heart rate, and nervousness, which can work to make you feel even more anxious.
If you feel jittery after a Dr. Pepper (or three), you might find some relief if you kick the habit, says O’Connor—who also clarifies that how anxious caffeine makes you is different for everyone, so even if your habit is lighter or heavier, individual results here will vary.
4. Your digestive system might thank you.
Coffee poops are a real pain (literally) in the butt. Caffeine stimulates muscle contractions and gut motility in the body, which makes you go number two, says O’Connor: “If someone is really relying on their cup of coffee for a bowel movement, they might notice that they don’t use the bathroom as quickly in the morning [after quitting].”
You might be dealing with a bit of constipation when you first quit. To get things flowing, O’Connor suggests switching to hot water because hot drinks can help smooth muscle relaxation and help out with your bowel movements. You can also try upping your fiber at breakfast. Oatmeal and bananas are good fiber-rich options!
5. If you deal with GERD, your symptoms might ease up.
If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which coffee can exacerbate, then you know it’s absolutely no fun. “Certain things may trigger reflux in one person and not in someone else. If caffeine is a known [GERD] trigger for someone, cutting back on it will, of course, be helpful,” says O’Connor.
Keep in mind that your acid reflux might not be caused by caffeine. To figure out if caffeine is really the issue, O’Connor suggests eliminating coffee (or however you get your fix) for a week to see if you feel different. If caffeine is, in fact, causing GERD symptoms, remember that the extent of the relief you’ll experience from GERD symptoms after quitting caffeine is individualized, according to O’Connor.
6. Your teeth might be in better shape.
Caffeine is a diuretic. Not only does that mean caffeine makes you pee more, but it also dries out your mouth, Chrystle Cu, DDS, a dentist at Young Dental Group in California and founder of Cocofloss, tells SELF. Dry mouth (meaning you don’t have enough saliva to keep your mouth moist) isn’t great for your oral health. Saliva not only contains minerals that prevent tooth decay, but it also helps to wash away leftover food from the teeth and gum line—and makes swallowing easier. Too little saliva can cause “an imbalance of the oral microbiome,” says Dr. Cu.10 “Reducing one’s caffeine intake would help in reducing one’s dry mouth, which will translate into a healthier mouth overall.”
If you’re worried about coffee stains, scheduling a routine dental cleaning can help lift some of them from your tooth enamel.11 You can also give whitening toothpaste a shot.
7. You’ll have a chance to create a new morning ritual that’s all your own.
Without your daily dose of caffeine, your mornings might look a little different. That’s not a bad thing: There are a ton of non-caffeinated beverages that you can give a whirl, many of which can feel like a special treat.
See what sparks the most joy: You can try caffeine-free herbal teas, which come in a number of delicious flavors, like Glazed Lemon Loaf, Calm Chamomile, and Organic Baked Cinnamon Apple. Now is your moment to up your smoothie game, too! Fruit “will provide an easily digestible source of carbohydrates to give you a boost of energy,” O’Connor says. Yogurt can help stabilize your blood sugar to help make sure that energy lasts throughout your whole morning. If you’re a soda lover, consider swapping your Sprite for seltzer.
You might be ready to retire your Mr. Coffee or 86 yourself from your favorite coffee shop ASAP, but let’s be very real: Quitting caffeine is hard! Cut yourself some slack if you’re struggling. You can always give it another shot—just maybe not one of espresso.
Originally Appeared on SELF