Last week I had to wake up and start my day at 3.30 am for work reasons. Obviously, I felt like shit.
I am in the process of giving up coffee, so I am only having one per day. I had one at around 7.30 am, and then by the afternoon, I was an unproductive and cranky version of myself that I didn’t recognize.
However, I later realized that this is exactly what I wanted. I wanted to pay the real price for waking up early and not getting the right amount of sleep. I didn’t want to cover this up by drinking five or six cups of coffee.
This would be lying to myself about the current state of my body, and that’s not a good thing.
What is interesting is that caffeine quite literally works by lying to your brain.
Caffeine is the active compound in coffee. It works by binding to certain receptors in your brain and changing their function. Throughout the day, your body produces the chemical Adenosine. As this is created, it binds to certain receptors in your brain which then gives you the feeling of being tired and slows down neural activity.
When caffeine binds to these receptors, it blocks Adenosine from being able to bind to them. This wouldn’t be so bad if caffeine also blocked the actual work that the receptors normally do when they bind with Adenosine. So you are tired, but you don’t feel tired.
The body is smart, and over time it creates more receptors to try and ensure that Adenosine can bind. This is why after a while coffee doesn’t work as it used to and you need more and more coffee to ensure you can stay awake.
Coffee also reduces blood flow to the brain as it makes the blood vessels in the body narrower. The blood vessels that supply blood to the brain can narrow as much as 25%, which is why when you give up coffee you can get powerful headaches — your brain is not used to having so much blood flow!
If you take any substance regularly, and you get quickly punished for not taking it, it is probably worth thinking about the relationship to that substance.