For the last month, my mornings have looked like this: I gaze blearily into my pantry, reaching one finger to stroke lovingly at the French press sitting still on the top shelf. With a sigh, I would shift right and pull down my favorite bag of tea instead, opting for a sweet rooibos instead of my usual cup of strong black.
That’s right, folks. I went decaff. Not for any overwhelming health concerns, mind, nor a sudden obsession with steeped tea. I had a curiosity, instead, to see if some of those popular Paleo words were true: the purported “improved sleep,” “consistent, elevated mood,” and
”ROCK HARD ABS” of the noble few who decided to forego caffeine.
So I skipped out on coffee. I put down my French Press, about a month back, and decided I’d spend some time apart from one of life’s simplest, most flavorful pleasures.
The end result?
SPOILER: NOT A WHOLE LOT
I used to down two or three cups daily, but the transition to cold turkey was painless. No headaches, no withdrawal symptoms, no clear changes in my sparkling disposition over the course of the next thirty days.
In the absence of my usual early morning pick-me-up, though, one small detail stood out. I was tired. Very tired, more often than not, a combo of too little sleep and no steaming cup of energy in the early hours. Until last month, I’d been able to gloss over it, blinking sleepily while brewing a pot of my favorite kind of rejuvenation.
Lacking coffee, though, I was forced to face one of my worst habits: my tendency, when choosing between just thirty more minutes, mom of computer time or a good night’s rest, to opt for the former. I doubt I’m alone in this. Sleep, for all that we know — and don’t know — about it, always gets the short end of the stick, our attention otherwise occupied with Twitter, Facebook, and the next social media fixation.
Caffeine becomes a band-aid. Nothing changes. Our habits don’t change, our sleep still suffers, and soon that steaming black pot of coffee is the only thing separating us from the shambling
Knowing this, what’s next?
I’m going to have a cup of coffee tomorrow morning. And I will enjoy it, thank you. But I’m also going to take my own advice, now, and close the laptop an hour early, putting myself to bed long before the morning sun comes peeking through the blinds.
That’s the big takeaway, here, and the point worth carrying if you ever find yourself slouched over the coffee maker in the office break room.
Coffee? Coffee is fine. Delicious, even, if you do the right thing and (most of the time!) pass on the all of the sugary syrup crap we like to fold into the mix. You won’t ever hear me tell you to put down the cup for health benefits — quite the contrary! — but you will hear me insist that you do the right thing and go to bed earlier.
Don’t use caffeine as a crutch to make up for poor sleep habits.
Use it to enliven, energize, and excite — but don’t use it like your alarm clock, some easy way to take shortcuts with one of the few things your body absolutely needs.
Go to sleep earlier. Shut down your computer an hour early. Turn off the TV instead of plopping down for late-night entertainment. Remind yourself that you have tomorrow, the day after, and the day after that to get stuff done, and force yourself then to stop, take a breath, and crawl under the covers.
Coffee, remarkably, still tastes amazing even when you’re rested, refreshed, and fully awake. Who knew?