You feel restless, jittery, and can’t get your body to settle down and relax.
All you can think about is that fourth cup of coffee you regrettably took down at 5 pm so that you could power through the rest of the day.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time!”
Now, sleep feels impossible. You know you’ll be tired tomorrow, are going to require more caffeine to get you going, and so the cycle goes.
Safe to say most coffee drinkers have been here at least a few times.
Approximately 85% of America utilizes caffeine products daily, with coffee being the most popular and accounting for nearly half that figure.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests curtailing your caffeine use at least six hours before bedtime.
So, what do you do when you’re regretting that cup you had late in the afternoon and want to know how you can finally relax and get some rest? Is it possible to counteract caffeine?
Let’s find out.
How Does Caffeine Work?Caffeine stays in our bodies and affects us for quite a bit longer than you may think.
The half-life of caffeine is an average of 4-6 hours, which is about the amount of time we’ll feel the majority of its impact.
After 45 minutes, our respective membranes and organs have absorbed 99% of the caffeine we’ve consumed.
These are baseline figures. The sensitivity each individual has regarding caffeine will depend on factors such as preexisting medical conditions, age, and drug interaction.
For us to explore ways to counteract caffeine and minimize how caffeine is affecting our bodies, we first need to understand how our bodies process it and why it can keep us feeling so restless hours after we’ve finished our last cup.
AdenosineAdenosine is a powerful vasodilator that promotes muscle relaxation by binding to purinergic receptors in different cell types.
Without getting too technical, caffeine essentially “tricks” these adenosine receptors.
Caffeine looks just like adenosine to the nerve cell, and caffeine binds to the adenosine receptor.
As a result, the cell no longer identifies adenosine. The caffeine is now occupying all the receptors to which adenosine would otherwise bind.
Now, rather than slow down, the nerve cells accelerate and speed up. The blood vessels in the brain constrict because caffeine prevents adenosine from opening them. If you’ve ever wondered why certain headache medicines like Excedrin contain caffeine, that’s why.
How Caffeine Affects the BrainCaffeine can, indeed, boost brain function.
In addition to blocking adenosine from binding to its respective receptors, caffeine can also stimulate the CNS (central nervous system). This phenomenon occurs through the release of other neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline.
Caffeine can impact and improve each of the following aspects of brain function:
- Reaction time
- Overall mood
- Learning capacity
- Attention to detail
- General mental function
As most coffee drinkers are aware, you’re likely to develop a tolerance to caffeine if you consume it regularly.
How Caffeine Affects the BodyBecause caffeine causes increased neuron firing in the brain, the pituitary gland sends out signals for the body to produce adrenaline. Adrenaline stimulates our “fight or flight” response, and affects our bodies in the following ways:
- Dilated pupils
- Increased heart rate
- Elevated blood pressure
- Slowed blood flow to the stomach
- Sugar is released by the liver for additional energy
- Muscles tighten
- Blood vessels near the skin’s surface constrict
Caffeine can make a significant difference in endurance, and can also improve our fat-burning capabilities.
Negating and Counteracting Caffeine’s EffectsThere’s good news and bad news. We’ll give you the bad first.
If you’re looking for a supplement or substance that will magically eradicate the cellular-level effect of caffeine after you’ve consumed it, you’re not going to find one. It doesn’t exist.
That said, there are a few tips we can provide to help you through.
If you’re experiencing any of the following, you’ve probably had a cup or two too many:
- Rapid heartbeat
Before proceeding, it’s important to point out that you should seek immediate medical attention if you believe you’re in danger of caffeine overdose.
But if you’ve had a cup too close to bedtime, and want to get some shuteye, here are a few suggestions.
1. Start Drinking WaterCaffeine is fat-soluble, which is why it moves through the body so quickly.
By the time you’re feeling the unwanted, negative effects of caffeine, you’re not going to be able to dilute it out by chugging tons of water. At this point, the caffeine is impacting us on a cellular level, so tearing through five bottles of H2O won’t flush the caffeine out of you.
Why the heck are you suggesting water if it won’t flush the caffeine out?
Caffeine dilates the urethra and is actually a bladder irritant.
The more caffeine we consume, the more frequently we feel the urge to use the bathroom. Each trip, we void a greater amount than we’re taking in. Thus, we quickly become dehydrated if we’re not drinking enough water with our cup ‘o Joe.
Dehydration from over-consuming caffeine can contribute to or enhance headaches, jitters, nausea, chest pains, and more.
Re-hydrating and focusing on water won’t flush the caffeine out faster, but it will help alleviate some of the discomfort brought on by the above.
A word of caution; drinking too much water can lead to seizures.
Don’t replace one problem with another. Remember moderation!
2. Try a Smart Coffee with L-TheanineOf course, drinking more coffee isn’t going to help once you’ve already had more caffeine than you’d have liked. However, smart coffees like Noocaf incorporate nootropics like L-theanine into their blends, resulting in a more relaxed sense of alertness and focus.
While L-theanine doesn’t counteract coffee, it does change the way we feel once we’ve consumed it.
If you’re at all familiar with L-theanine, you’ve probably heard it discussed in conjunction with coffee or caffeine. That’s because the two go together extremely well.
According to a study, combining L-theanine with caffeine results in improved performance and cognition compared to caffeine alone.
If it’s anxiety, jitters, or nervousness from your caffeine that you’re looking to counteract, L-theanine is a wonderful supplement.
Several studies revealed that L-theanine increased relaxation and reduced heart rate without causing drowsiness. For this reason, L-theanine and caffeine are one of the more popular “stacks” you’ll hear of in the world of nootropics.
The result is an alert, more focused energy without the jitters and racing heart.
L-theanine has also shown to improve sleep quality. Doses of between 250-400mg led to better sleep in both humans and animals.
Best of all, L-theanine is considered to be very safe – as it is one of the safest supplements you can try. So, while L-theanine does not directly counteract caffeine or remove it from our cells, it does change the way caffeine makes us feel and can remove several unwanted or less-desirable effects.
3. Try Relaxation Techniques to Induce SleepOdds are, if you’re searching for ways to counteract caffeine, you’re probably doing it from your bed at some ungodly hour because you had your last cup of coffee late at night and can’t sleep.
If you’re fidgety, jittery, and feel like you can’t settle down, there are a few things you can do to help your body relax.
- Avoid bright screens from cellphones or televisions before bedtime
- Try meditation
- Read a book
- Have a glass of warm milk
- Try melatonin
- Take a warm bath or shower
- Avoid sugary foods or eating too close to bedtime
To an earlier point, none of the above are going to counteract the caffeine in your body physically. Unfortunately, there aren’t cure-all’s that accomplish targeted elimination of caffeine when we’ve consumed too much of it, and many of the claims otherwise are mythical or not backed by science.
However, employing one (or several) of these techniques can promote relaxation and help minimize many of the unwanted effects of consuming too much caffeine.
Tips and Takeaways
While it would be great to have an OTC supplement or natural remedy to turn to on days where we’ve had too many cups of coffee or doubled up on energy drinks, the reality is that caffeine needs to run its course.
If you’re trying to counteract caffeine, it’s likely because you’ve consumed too much, and it’s either interfering with your ability to get a good nights’ sleep or it’s causing unwanted physical sensations through the course of the day.
For starters, try to limit the amount of caffeine you have when you first wake up. Your coffee mug shouldn’t be the first thing you reach for each morning.
Caffeine raises cortisol levels, and the combination of the two could lead you to feel more tired later in the day. Feeling tired later in the day is usually the primary reason why you wind up drinking coffee too late and wind up in this vicious cycle to begin.
Here are a few more suggestions to avoid the unpleasantness of the above:
- Give yourself at least six hours between your final caffeinated beverage and bedtime
- Limit overall consumption to 300mg per day or less
- Drink at least as much water as you drink coffee/caffeinated beverages
It’s not the advice people want to hear. But, to reduce the ill-effects of being over-caffeinated, the easiest solution is to limit and monitor your intake.