Wide Awake at 3 AM

I ended my no caffeine experiment yesterday exactly 21 days after it began. Around Noon I had a single cup of green tea. And then around 4 PM, I had about 1/3 cup more tea. The good news is I beat my goal by 6 days. Now for the bad news. By around 9 PM, I felt jittery, but I was still able to fall asleep easily around 10:30 PM. At 3 AM, I woke up still feeling jittery unable to return to sleep.

Uggh, I think I broke my caffeine metabolism. This isn’t good. Maybe I’m panicking, because I’m so tired and I can’t think straight. Now what?


Add yours

  1. I bet your body is just not accustomed to the caffeine yet. That will probably go away quickly. I would only consume caffeine before noon for a while yet. Was it a mood interrupter? Hope so.

  2. @Becky – I was in a good mood when I had the tea, so I’ll have to do that test later. Right now I’ve been up for 3.5 hours tired and anxious. This sucks. I hope your right and that my body just needs time to get used to the caffeine again.

  3. I have been following (and emulating) your experiment. Since I was clean since the first of the month and the end is so near, I am going to make mine a complete month.

    4 days in I started monitoring my BP (when I remember). I took 8 reading in October. I was closer to 120/70 on the first 4, closer to 110/65 on the last 4. The interesting part will be to see the results when starting the caffeine again.

    I seem to have also dropped a couple of pounds (not a good thing for me), I think it might be lower motivation in doing workouts (less of them, less intensity).

    As others suggested to you. I am only going to have a morning jolt for the first day or two back on Caffeine. I imagine the effects will be much stronger initially.

    I am sure you will be back to normal in a few days…

  4. That’s a bummer man. Honestly that sounds like how I feel when I don’t get enough sleep and/or don’t drink enough water – wondering if you want to buffer your system with (caffeine-free) fluids during this process.

  5. @Peter S – My weight went up and down all month. My energy in the gym was way down, probably because I usually “espresso up” before working out.

    @Joe – I get plenty of other beverages. What I am feeling is a jolt of adrenaline shortly after awakening. It feels like I narrowly missed a car wreck. Impossible to return to sleep.

  6. Welcome to the world of a non coffee drinker. If I think about caffeine after about 2pm I’m awake all night.

    Have you ever tried Yerba Mate? Caffeine makes me really edgy and grouchy so I mostly avoid it, but I am a bit addicted to Yerba Mate. It’s a smoother ‘high’. Green tea and coffee both make me really jittery, this doesn’t.

  7. @Roberta – The odd thing is I instantly fell asleep. It is staying asleep that gets me. I tried Yerba a few times. Never cared much for the taste, but I’m willing to try it again. I have a little bit around here.

  8. Always hard to communicate a *feeling* – but that sounds like a jittery “overtired” feeling to me – kind of like an all nighter. Your sleep may simply not be restful enough. I’d look at trying things that you know to be relaxing: for me it would be a warm bath, a dark room, and willfully closing my eyes to try and rest and concentrating on my pulse a la biofeedback. That usually will be the trick to sleeping when I’ve hit an overtired state.

  9. @Joe – I do think a huge part of my problem is I’m falling into a pattern where I am starting to fear this time of the morning. So when I briefly wake up, instead of falling back asleep I start to panic.

    Interestingly I went back and checked my sleep quality for October 2011 and it is identical to this month (3.26 vs 3.25). The big difference is in 2011, I was getting lots of headaches, whereas this month I’ve only had 4.

  10. MAS

    Have you ever tried using a homeopathic sleep aid. I have used CALMS FORTE and have found it very helpful. I have also used the amino acid L-Theanine.

  11. @Alan – I’ve been meaning to try L-Theanine. My problem with everything I’ve tried for sleep is that they don’t help me for the last 2-3 hours. I need no assistance falling asleep, just staying asleep.

  12. I have no idea what the problem is but maybe it’s worth trying a paradoxical experiment – such as when you are woken up around 3 a.m. you have a small cup of coffee and see what happens… What have you got to lose?

    The thinking is that sometimes giving some people a stimulant actually calms them down…

  13. I think Glenn’s idea is counterintuitive, but might be worth a shot – if the cause of the feeling is caffeine under-dose, than a small dose might be useful. I’ve never had caffeine in moderate doses impact my sleep, and given your affinity for caffeinated drinks maybe it’s something your body needs.

    I had another thought though – your environment – if I woke up like that and it was at all environmental – basically noise and light – fix that.

    I’d want so assure the sleep environment was all it could be – adequate darkness, no tv / radio / phone stimulation — white noise in the form of a fan or climate control — temperature set where I like it — no clothing that’s uncomfortable — some folks also like lots of heavy covers and some folks like just a sheet — so do whatever you’ve had the best experience with in the past.

  14. @Glenn – That does seem very counter intuitive, but I am willing to try it. Probably tea. Still no coffee until Nov 1st.

    @Joe – I fixed my sleeping environment 2 years ago. Pure darkness, zero electronics. Note that the first 5 hours of my sleep is deep and restful.

  15. Glenn Whitney

    Oct 29, 2012 — 2:24 pm

    Indeed check out the definition of Ritalin on Wikipedia. It is supposed to be effective in a similar paradoxical way…

  16. You are still in withdrawal after having been a heavy user for years (decades?). You will never be able to have a normal relationship with caffeine again. However, you can learn to live with it. Just take it easy and don’t fall back into any form of regular use. Give it a week, have a coffee, trip out hard on it (palpitations, heat flashes, headaches are common). Give it two more weeks, have another coffee. And so on. Two or three a month, no more, works for me… but everyone is different.

  17. Forgive me for asking, but:
    Why don’t you get up without allowing that panic to set in, and see where that takes you?
    When my last relationship broke up, I had a similar streak. Getting tired enough for longer sleep intervals was my only chance to “get any” 🙂

  18. @Frank – The reason I don’t get up right is that I am trying to teach myself how to return to sleep. It worked last Friday night. Saturday wasn’t too bad. Last night was hell.

    @Glenn – I tried the green tea at 3 AM suggestion last night and read for 90 minutes. It was a pleasant experience, but I was unable to return to sleep.

  19. Another paradoxical experiment might be to have a cup of green tea immediately before your normal bed-time…

    I know everyone is different and “your mileage will vary” but I find the most important elements of getting a solid night sleep are:

    1- Vigorous exercise everyday (by vigorous I especially mean HIIT, even for only 5 minutes)
    2- Direct exposure to natural sunlight, everday

    Ideally you can combine 1 with 2.

    Also, when I get inexplicably woken up after 4-5 hours of sleep, I have a pee (there’s a really dim (blue) night light in the bathroom), go back to bed, put my iPod headhphones on, listen to the rain/aural sleep track and practice calm breathing. I call it “slumbering”. It’s not as good as real deep sleep, but it gets me about 3/4s of the way to feeling really rested.

    Four hours of deep sleep plus four hours of slumbering is usually enough for me to feel pretty good the next day.

  20. I was wondering how you were doing? For me tea is almost worse than coffee. When I started having coffee again I kept it just in the am, anything later affects sleep pattern. The problem is once I have one cup early or midday, I inevitably want another one latter. Over the last few years I seem to react badly to caffeine in tea but don’t get that affect from coffee. Go figure. Hope you get over this hump. I think caffeine affects adrenaline. I take vitamin B5 as an extra supplement as it is meant to support your adrenals. Once you are clean from caffeine its a big jump to your adrenals once you have it again. I do eat liver twice a week but because I drink coffee too, I take the vitamin B5 (calcium pantothenate) its a naturally calmer. You could even take it early hours if you felt too jumped up to go back to sleep. It comes in 250 mg pill forms. I had two recently and felt the effect very soon. Its THE stress vitamin. I think coffee is a stimulant but also a stresser.

  21. I also agree with daily walks, I was reading Seth’s blog recently and he used standing more during the day and an hour walking each day to improve quality of his sleep. I have been trying this and it works.

  22. @Glenn – I stopped getting the jittery feeling, so I no longer think this is caffeine related. I think I have just feel into a bad pattern. I’m going to focus more on my response to early morning waking that trying to fix something which may be out of my control.

    @Pauline – My activity level is way down this month. September is the best month in Seattle and October is one of the worst. So less walking, less sunshine, etc.

    I’m heading to the supplement store. I’ll get some B5. I’m also going to try Theanine. I’m also going to stop taking 5-HTP. When my sleep was deep, it really felt great. Now it doesn’t.

  23. I don’t think any of the sleep symptoms have anything to do with any vitamins, herbs, or supplements. This seems to be purely a psychological problem related to the main symptom of anxiety (which may likely trigger other psychological issues).

    Why don’t reserve the waking late nite hours for something pleasurable like watching a movie, reading a book, or something creative. That way the minute you wake-up you won’t be thinking about falling back to sleep but rather finishing the movie, next chapter to be read, etc. which may set you up mentally to “crash” back to sleep in an hour or so. This may redirect the anxiety you feel towards pleasure…or I guess you could always just jerk off.

  24. I just wanted to mention that our weather in the UK is cold and overcast going into our autumn season and I make a point of trying to get out into daylight and walk, even if it means parking and walking towards shops etc, just to get the outdoor and indoor movement. I think our brains work better when we walk and it improves mood, it also means we are more tired at the end of the day. Any kind of standing done during the day instead of sitting means there is a more natural physical tiredness before sleep. I think vitamin B5 has a place when our bodies are stressed from too much sitting or thinking or just general life stresses. Walking is different to exercise in a gym – when we walk, more like our ancestors did, hunting and gathering, exploring was a natural part of their day. The change of environment and movement does something to our stuck thinking and thoughts flow. Now we explore more at our computers and desks. But we can make small changes and create these opportunites to move.

  25. Update. I broke my 1 month Caffeine fast today. I feel a bit buzzed/wired/jittery/energetic. Overall I like it.

    Took my BP, and it seems unaffected despite feeling wired.

    No more Caffeine today.

  26. Another idea is that post-detox I may require less sleep and that I just need to get used to that idea and not stress about getting “8 hours”.

    @Pauline – Got the B5, but decided against the Theanine after doing more research.

  27. @ MAS

    I also seemed to be sleeping a bit less during my caffeine free month. Though my sleep quality/time is more erratic as I get older, so hard to judge.

  28. @Peter – I have been tracking sleep quality and other variables on a spreadsheet for over a year now. I have found it very helpful in figuring out what works, what doesn’t and to what extent.

    For example, my average sleep quality was 3.8/5.0 for the year leading up to the test. Then in October it dropped to 3.15/5.0. It felt worse to me during this past month, but the data speaks for itself.

  29. How do you measure sleep quality?

  30. @Peter S- When I wake up I just assign a score on how well rested I feel. 5 would be perfect sleep. 1 would be miserable sleep. Most nights are a 3 or 4.

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