Bad news for coffee fiends: what’s in your cup could actually be hurting your productivity instead of boosting it.
Caffeine is a powerful substance, after all. It can enhance your alertness, give you more energy, and promise you something to look forward to in the morning (or throughout your day). But it’s true that you can have too much of a good thing. No one knows this better than coffee lovers with a sensitivity to caffeine.
How do you know if you’re one of them? The signs of caffeine sensitivity often fly under the radar. Here are a few symptoms to keep an eye out for if you’re wondering if your daily cup of joe is doing more harm than good.
1. Racing Heartbeat
We’ve all felt what it’s like to max out on caffeine and feel it rush straight to the heart. You might hear it pounding in your eardrums or pulsing in your temple. It can be an energizing flood of adrenaline or a distracting sense of stress.
Either way, it’s not entirely abnormal to have this happen when you drink too much coffee. The difference for people with a caffeine sensitivity is that this will happen at a much lower dose. If it’s happening as soon as you start your first cup, for instance, it may be a sign that you’re sensitive to caffeine.
If you’re one of the many people who turns to caffeine for headache relief, this one may seem counterintuitive, but for those with a sensitivity, it’s frequently the opposite.
It’s important to make sure it’s caffeine that’s causing your headaches, though. Keep track of your headaches and notice any patterns that might recur around them. If your headaches start while you’re drinking coffee or another caffeinated beverage, or soon after, it may be related to a sensitivity.
3. Anxiety or Nervousness
Anxiety is influenced by so many different factors, which can often make it difficult to understand the cause. Your mileage may vary depending on your baseline, so it’s important to have a solid grasp on that first, and to recognize if there’s anything going on in your life that could be responsible for an anxiety spike.
If not, and you’re noticing an increase in your levels of anxiousness or nervousness, especially when you’re drinking coffee, it might be time to re-examine your caffeine intake.
4. Restlessness or Jitters
Everyone gets the jitters after drinking coffee on occasion—knee bouncing up and down, fingernails tapping on the table, can’t sit still.
Whether you’ve had more than usual or drank your first cup on an empty stomach, it’s common to feel jittery as a result of caffeine. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of eating a snack or opting out of that last cup for the day.
Other times, it can point to a sensitivity. When the jitters get to the point of true discomfort, or if they’re interfering with your daily life, your body could be trying to tell you something.
It comes as no surprise that caffeine can keep you up at night. Maybe you want a treat after a hard day, so you hit Starbucks on your way home from work—but you forget to order decaf. You might have trouble sleeping later that night.
Caffeine can interfere with your body’s natural production of adenosine, which helps you get sleepy at bedtime. That’s why you’re told not to consume any within six hours of going to sleep, whether you’re sensitive or not.
If you are sensitive, you may notice a more dramatic impact on your ability to fall asleep on the days when you’ve had caffeine. A good way to test this is to see if cutting out caffeine for a day (or a few) helps you drift off more easily at night.
6. Stomach Issues
Coffee can be hard on the stomach, especially if you haven’t eaten breakfast first. And thanks to its laxative qualities, it’s not unusual to pay a visit to the bathroom after a cup or two.
But caffeine can have a unique effect on the stomachs of the sensitive. It triggers your body to produce more acid than normal, so when you’ve consumed too much caffeine, the high amounts of acid can hurt your stomach.
A sensitivity lowers your tolerance for caffeine, meaning that reaching that limit happens faster, leading to discomfort.
Cutting Back on Caffeine
So, maybe you read this list and you saw yourself reflected in it. You’re curious about whether you really do have a sensitivity and if cutting out coffee (or your caffeinated beverage of choice) could help alleviate your symptoms.
It might! But it’s important to note that everyone’s sensitivity level is unique. You may have a threshold that’s completely different from someone else’s, and that’s okay. All you have to do is figure out where that threshold is, and make sure you stay underneath it!
Maybe you don’t have to cut out coffee completely. Your symptoms may resolve if you simply lower your caffeine intake for the day. A few tips and tricks will help you get your intake to where you need it to be.
If you’ve discovered that you do have a caffeine sensitivity through this article, don’t be discouraged. Knowledge is power, and knowing your limits is the first step to finding a balance that will allow you to enjoy a warm beverage in the morning while staying productive—all while symptom-free.
After all, there’s always decaf.