My 30 day caffeine experiment: a quest for better sleep

I’m an early bird. Annoyingly so. Ask any of my old college room-mates! I wake up whistling and ready for action at the crack of dawn. While this has always helped me get more worms than most people, it’s not intentional. I simply can’t sleep once daylight hits the window. Matter of fact, my natural body clock wakes me between 5-6am even on weekends and vacations!

In my college years, I averaged about 4 hours of sleep per night. Bumped that up to about 6 hours once I got out into the work world. That schedule seemed to work fine for many years. Now that I’m getting older (and chasing 3 kids under 7), I’m back to about 5 hours of sleep per night.

I’ve noticed my quality of sleep dramatically decreasing over the last year. I often feel like a zombie. So, I recently decided to run some experiments on myself! Up first? Caffeine.

I started drinking coffee around the age of 10. It started with a few cups each Sunday at the after-church social hour. In my teen years, I graduated to about a half pot per day. In college, I drank disgusting quantities… usually 2-3 pots per day. After school, my normal consumption leveled out to 1-2 pots per day. Not sure I could have managed engineering school or a career in engineering software sales without my little black friend.

About 30 days ago, I stopped all caffeine… cold turkey! The first few days were horrific. Massive headaches, itchy eyes, and extreme lethargy. The only saving grace was a nasty cold I caught at the same time. Better to live through two evils at once and get ’em out of the way.

My wife monitored my sleep patterns. She’s used to me flailing, yelling, talking, and snoring very loudly throughout the night. I’m often fighting all manner of evil midgets, nasty CEOs, terrorists, and little-girl-ninjas. She’s learned to protect her head during the worst of my punching fits.

I expected to magically enjoy deep, satisfying sleep after 2 weeks off the sauce. No such luck. After 30 days, Heidi reported that I’m running, kicking, flailing, and talking as much as ever.

Interestingly, my time off the wagon made things worse. I still walk around tired all day long… and, I’ve noticed a strange emotional change: I’ve been getting progressively irritable, disengaged, and less creative.

Yesterday was day 31, and I woke up miserable. Wasn’t enjoying my home life or even my kids’ morning laughter. So, I called it quits and bought a large ice-coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. Within 15 minutes, my whole outlook on the world changed. Kinda scary, actually. It was as if everything in black & white suddenly popped with color. I enjoyed my kids at the pool club, and then spent the evening brainstorming some wild new ideas for work!

So, right or wrong- I’m sticking with the coffee for now. At least┬ámy time away from the Java God gives me the chance to pull back on consumption a bit. I’ll now be limiting myself to 1-3 cups per day. Seems a nice balance.

My next experiment will be exercise. I’ve totally let myself go in the last 18 months with respect to ass-moving. Perhaps burning off some energy with good old fashioned cardio will push me into a deeper sleep at night? This’ll be good for me anyway as I’m now on my last belt hole!

If you have thoughts on other factors that can increase the quality of sleep, please comment below and run your own experiment on me!

8 comments

  1. A few years ago my wife couldn’t take my snoring. When I was snoring I just didn’t feel refreshed in the morning. I gave in and had a sleep study done. That’s where you go to sleep in a lab for a night. They hook you up with wires to measure all sorts of things.

    After a night in the lab the doctor called. I thought he was going to tell me I needed a mask or some special medicine. He told me I just needed to loose 10% of my weight and my snoring will stop. I started Weight Watchers online and several months later I lost the weight (along with exercise). Sure enough I stopped snoring and slept a lot better.

    So there’s my story.

  2. Dave B · ·

    A few years ago my wife couldn’t take my snoring. When I was snoring I just didn’t feel refreshed in the morning. I gave in and had a sleep study done. That’s where you go to sleep in a lab for a night. They hook you up with wires to measure all sorts of things.

    After a night in the lab the doctor called. I thought he was going to tell me I needed a mask or some special medicine. He told me I just needed to loose 10% of my weight and my snoring will stop. I started Weight Watchers online and several months later I lost the weight (along with exercise). Sure enough I stopped snoring and slept a lot better.

    So there’s my story.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Dave! I have a feeling that’s going to be the case for me, too.

  3. alessio · ·

    ever tried to give up sugars? like in a paleo diet? first weeks are tough, but then energy levels stay the same the whole day.. only issue is to manage eating with other people.. good luck

  4. alessio · ·

    ever tried to give up sugars? like in a paleo diet? first weeks are tough, but then energy levels stay the same the whole day.. only issue is to manage eating with other people.. good luck

  5. Listen to your Mother….and the first two guys. Knock off the sugar. Knock up the exercise. Knock off the excuses. What ever happened to the “No more jokes tour”?

    Take little steps…I know you, you will want to go whole hog (pardon the expression) and go on an 800 cal diet with 3 hours of cardio a day, then fizzle after a week. You CAN do it!!

    Love, Mom

  6. Listen to your Mother….and the first two guys. Knock off the sugar. Knock up the exercise. Knock off the excuses. What ever happened to the “No more jokes tour”?

    Take little steps…I know you, you will want to go whole hog (pardon the expression) and go on an 800 cal diet with 3 hours of cardio a day, then fizzle after a week. You CAN do it!!

    Love, Mom

  7. Thanks for sharing, Dave! I have a feeling that's going to be the case for me, too.