Caffeine

I have mentioned a few times on this blog and rather a lot of times on other blogs and really rather too often in my non-internet life, that I need more sleep. My usual weekend default is, about half an hour after I wake, saying to my partner, “[Partner], I’m sleepy.” Sometimes, for variety and interest, I say, “[Partner], guess what?” and he replies (because he is amazingly astute and clever and observant), “You’re sleepy.” My usual weekday default is tiredness. I drag myself through the morning, I have lunch (sometimes with a brisk walk to perk me up) and I falter in mid-afternoon. When I get home, I more tired than a day sitting at desk warrants.

It has been like this for much, much too long and I don’t know why.  I thought, for a bit, that it might be the coffee, leading to less good sleep.

When I first started uni I used to drink about 4 shots of coffee a day. Back then, my preferred caffeinated beverage was a strong espresso – a short black in Australian coffee language, expressos in some cafes (grr, grr!). Eventually (and now) my preferred coffee is a long black (or its equivalent).

I worked during my teen and early uni years in a women’s fashion store (an incongruous part of my life, now I think on it) and drank a lot of coffee then as well, because it sent me away from the store for a few minutes (“I’m off to buy a coffee – does anyone want one?” or “Oops, too much coffee – need the bathroom again – back in a tick.” And it meant that I was invariably chirpy and talkative. Lots of coffee, see?)

I reduced my coffee intake for a while, because I got to the point where I would not be listening to people in the morning as all I could think about was when I could have a coffee. And it cost me rather a lot of money; money that I did not have as a student. I also did not like, when I realised, that I was addicted.

Once I weaned myself off coffee (grumpy and headachey for a solid few weeks), I took it up again but would only down one cup a day and usually at sporadic times – so that I never *needed* a coffee in the mornings before doing anything else at all.

When I first started dating my current partner, I would meet him in cafes, but did not drink coffee. This was because coffee made me exceptionally talkative, manic and rather hand wavey. He thought I was super healthy, because the alternatives were usually smoothies, fruit frappes or juices . I owned up at some point, saying I did drink coffee but it made me manic so I wanted to be calmer at our first few meetings.  It was important to me that he drank coffee, and I was pleased he drank it black. I had dated a super healthy man who turned up his nose at my coffee habit, who drank nothing but water or juices at cafes, and it was one of those niggly bothersome things that in retrospect should have ended the relationship sooner but how do you end a relationship with, “It’s definitely not me. It really is you. I’m breaking up with you because you don’t drink coffee.” I see that break up line going down a treat.

Because I visited so often, I became friendly with a barista who had just started his own coffee shop. It was during my honours thesis, so I had lots of spare time that I should have spent writing. I would sit up at the counter, drinking my coffee and chatting with him. He would have me test new beans and he even made me a particular coffee, which if he said I liked, would go on the menu. It was a long black (one shot of espresso, two thirds hot water), with froth and chocolate sprinkles. What I thought would be a good combination of a long black (my then preferred coffee) with a cappucino (I love the froth and the chocolate sprinkles; I don’t like the two-thirds milk). It was awful.

On days when my visits to his coffee shop were my second or third coffee of the day, I would order a macchiato (long or short black coffee with a dash of milk). One day, he made me a long macchiato with three shots of espresso, rather than just one, to see what would happen. He did not tell me. Just handed me the coffee, which I drank as I chatted to him. I hopped off the stool I was sitting on and left. I walked home and cleaned the whole house. I sat down to play a computer game – Tekken 3 – with my housemates and bashed at the keys. I jumped up again and stood behind my housemates saying, “Agh! What else can I do?” but before getting an answer I left the house. I marched back down to the coffee shop, plonked myself on the stool I’d left no more than two hours ago and put my head in my hands. The barista was laughing. “How do you feel? I made it triple strength.” “Triple strength? Triple strength? It’s your fault. YOUR fault. I need to DO something.” I marched off again. He was still laughing. I think I walked back and forth along the main street, going from my house to somewhere else, thinking I would do a chore and then suddenly dash off back home, thinking I would lie down for the feeling to pass but when I got home, I just had to leave again. It was funny in retrospect and I laughed with the barista next time I visited, and with my housemates who were thoroughly bemused by my comings and goings (and pleased the whole house was clean).

As a child I drank heaps of ice coffees. Vietnamese ice coffees. Not the ice coffees you get in Australian cafes full of cream and ice-cream and a chocolate flake in the cream. (I admit to drinking rather a lot of them in my teenage years though. Felt like I was in an American diner, when I was out at cafes with my high school friends.) Iced black coffees. Where the ingredients were ice, black coffee and rather a lot of sugar. My grandfather started me off because he asked me to make one for him. He said I had to taste test it first – make sure the sugar balanced out the bitterness but did not get overly sweet – before giving to him. You make coffee (back then, instant Nescafe. Crazy, huh?), then you add sugar. Then you break up chunks of ice into the glass of coffee. Invariably, I made one for him, one for me and one for anyone else in the general vicinity. I think this started when I was about 8 or 9. Possibly younger, but I don’t remember making coffee in our house in West End, only in our house in the ‘burbs.

During one BIFF, the doctor suggested I give up coffee for the sake of my health. I was having stomach issues and we were eliminating possible causes. Hallelujah – It was not coffee. (Nothing changed, except that BIFF was much harder to manage that year).

A couple of months ago, I decided to stop drinking coffee on weekdays. I thought it might help me sleep better, enabling me to be more lively at work. I even took my personal plunger home, so my partner could make individual coffees on the days he worked from home. That means, even though I try not to accumulate STUFF in England, we now have three coffee aparatuses: big plunger, little plunger, stovetop espresso maker. That’s only slightly better than our home in Brisbane, which had a big plunger, big stovetop espresso maker, little stovetop espresso maker, a dripolator (frequently misnamed a percolator) and two travel coffee-mug-cum-plunger-things-that-got-used-once-and-then-languished-in-rejection-in-the-back-of-the-cupboard.

When I started working full time, I decided I should not drink coffee at a regular time, just so I would not rely on it. I was worried that I might not have time for a coffee in the mornings, or I would have work that would mean I could not take a break to go to the toilet. Being a habit forming creature, I ended up drinking coffee around lunch time.

A few months of not-drinking-coffee-on-workdays, and little has changed. I’m tired, grumpy and impatient throughout the day. My sleep is sometimes heavy and undisturbed, and sometimes I lie awake at 3 or 4 am, thinking, “Gah! Why am I awake?” My tricks of getting myself back to sleep, learned during my insomniac years (coincidentally also my heavily caffeinated years) still worked, but not always perfectly. I would fall asleep and then wake again, a little more annoyed with myself. So, it’s not the coffee. It’s something else.

I’ve decided I like who I am on coffee. I like my manicness – it really is how a lot of people characterise me and I don’t mind. I have felt duller these last few months, and like the world is duller – its edges less sharp, me less excited. I don’t know if it’s the coffee or something else but I’m going back on coffee. I like the idea of a me who drinks coffee. I like coffee. I miss drinking coffee. I miss the ritual of making coffee. I even miss saying to someone, “I need coffee,” before listening more carefully to them or knuckling down to draft that advice.

I’ve got a new plan: coffee as my first morning drink. Revolutionary, I know.

Oh, and coffee spawned this lengthy post.

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14 Comments

  1. You win – this must be the longest post ever on drinking/not drinking coffee! Interesting that you have not had good sleep despite reducing caffeine. I had a friend who couldn’t sleep well and finally figured it was her dog’s snoring. She crate trained her dog, got better sleep, and was amazed at how much smarter she felt during the day.

    Reply

    1. Nikkipolani
      Yay! I win. I love winning. Always was a bit verbose …

      Have to try to work out what the issue is. But at least I can keep drinking coffee!

      Reply

  2. How about tea? 😛

    Does working out help you sleep? I work out at night and have a quick surge of energy when I get home. Enough to do some housework and a shower. Then I’m conked out and fully rested.

    Reply

    1. WC

      Ah, I also drink lots of tea – black, green, herbal – all day at work and all day at home too. So, tea is not a coffee substitute.

      And I also exercise a heap generally. I really would have to exercise a lot to wear me out every night, and it just would not be feasible. Though I’m contemplating (now that it’s warmer and lighter for longer) longer rides with more hills on the way home from work… That’d knock me out good and proper.

      Reply

  3. Have you tried decaf coffee? Or does it taste disgusting to you? I normally have a cup in the morning (more of a tea person during the day) so I’m not too bad. Maybe you should try a good soak in the bath before bed as well. See if that helps. 😀

    Reply

  4. I loved this post, O. A touch of verbosity is a wonderful thing every once in a while, and coffee-(non)drinking is a worthy topic! I’m hoping to emulate you soon (though it will be far less interesting).

    I was going to post about a rather major food conversion that’s happened to me recently. For the moment, suffice to say that I have become a fan of salad…inconceivable!

    t.

    Reply

  5. i was the same. had a full on coffee obsession in uni which reached its peak in my honours year (about 8-10 cups a day – basically 1 every hour or so). i was feeling many of those symptoms so when i started work i decided to cut back on the coffee…the symptoms + having a very weak bladder made me not very productive when i was drinking that much coffee.

    but after cutting back to about 2 a day (max) the symptoms didnt go away.

    luckily, i started donating blood around that same timeframe and was told i am borderline anemic and so i started taking iron tablets on and off – this solved most of my symptoms…

    anywhos…people are sometimes too quick to blame things like coffee….

    =)

    Reply

  6. hehe. i gave up coffee at the start of this year.

    i picked up the habit when i started working full time, and then started drinking it believing it would help kick start the day. it was a lovely way to start the day, but my stomach doesn’t like coffee, especially, first thing in the morning.

    the first two months without coffee were painful in the morning – i’d sit at my desk working but wouldn’t really wake up until around 11am. but the brain fog’s gone now, and it’s like i never drank coffee.

    but you, i agree, i think you should keep drinking coffee. =)

    not sure what you should try for the insomnia/tiredness though. maybe you’re gluten intolerant or something?

    Reply

  7. hedgehog
    I’m a terrible coffee snob – I absolutely will not drink decaf 😀 no point. Either I’m caffeinated, or I’m not.

    I might try the warm bath suggestion though … hmmm…

    tseen
    salad is great! I love salad! I used to be our family salad maker and I’d get all creative with dressings and different types of salad … and all my family wanted was the same salad, over and over. woe is me.

    purple_orchid

    honours year, hey. Definitely the time for a spike in coffee intake!

    I too have had the connection with aenemia, but that was back when I was vego. I fixed it by eating a beef burger once a week. A terrible ordeal, I tell you. (ho ho)

    I have so few health vices, I should keep coffee so that the rest of the world doesn’t start thinking I’m a super health freak.

    n.t.

    My stomach doesn’t like coffee either – or, rather, it does not like to much coffee. But my stomach dislikes milk more!

    yes, I really need to figure out the tiredness. We shall see, we shall see.

    I think I should keep drinking coffee too! huzzah!

    Reply

  8. Embrace your addiction I say. I like manic Oanh too! Especially when she’s hand wavey 🙂

    May I suggest pregnancy should you ever need to come clean again…. it’s a wonderful cold turkey solution.

    Reply

  9. I am a total caffeine addict. During my A-Levels, I drank up to 15 cups of coffee a day. Yes, that is far too much.

    A bad coffee incident once occurred to me at a party where there was lots of alcohol, and the only food available was chocolate covered coffee beans. In a desperate effort to line my stomach, I chowed down on beans. At about midnight, feeling rather drunk, I went home and fell into bed. At 2am, I sat bolt upright. Massive caffeine hit! I was literally shaking. Even though I was exhausted, there was no way I could sleep. So I sat up and read The Man Who Loved Children (a crazy book to read when on a caffeine high). I couldn’t sleep until 11am that morning, when I literally fell asleep mid-sentence…

    Amazingly (as littlewarthog has adverted to) I had to go off coffee entirely when pregnant. In fact, it’s how I realised I was pregnant the first time around – my boss bought me a coffee, and I threw up – I thought the milk was bad or something, it tasted so revolting. Through both pregnancies, I couldn’t stomach coffee at all. I’ve made up for it afterwards…

    Reply

  10. The only time I’ve been sans caffeine was during my pregnancy and breastfeeding days. The day I weaned, I went back to double shot long black with a dash of cold milk.

    I tried to cut down, but now that research has found that drinking 4-5 cups can prevent alzheimers (or did I read that paper in a dream – I forget) I feel it’s ok to drink as much as I do.

    I also recently discovered a vietnamese coffee bar near where I work – but I only have that a couple of times a week.

    I used to only drink coffee in the morning, but am now drinking in late in the afternoon because I don’t have enough hours in the day. That’s my justification for drinking as much as I do – oh that and I buy fairtrade, so in drinking so much I’m helping out small coffee farmers.

    Oh I lie. I drank coffee through my pregnancy. The doctor said one cup a day of a single shot coffee was fine.

    Though my kid ended up in breech position hmmmm 😉

    Reply

  11. littlewarthog, legal eagle and strongcoffeeplease

    I had no idea:-
    1. that one could/should not have coffee when one is preggers and
    2. that you’re such caffeine addicts (although the new blog name should have really given it away for me, SCP!)

    littlewarthog
    I think the world needs a hand-wavey Oanh. Oanh certainly does!

    legal eagle
    Chocolate covered coffee beans are the shizz. But goodness – up until 11am the next morning? ugh.

    strongcoffeeplease
    re alzheimers and baby in breech position: correlative or causative? 😛

    Reply

  12. I see nothing wrong in breaking up with someone whose incompatability is manifested in their beverage habits (and I’m not even going to go into differing levels of alcohol consumption). It’s one of those niggling, tiny little things that you don’t ever think will be a problem, and it rarely is, in and of itself, but wind up being the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. I’d rank it up there with snoring, or perhaps an early bird/night owl combo – something you really, really want to know about and think carefully about before making a long term committment.

    I know I’d certainly have to think long and hard about someone who had drastically different coffee consumption habits to me.

    Reply

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