Mouse poops helped me kick my coffee addiction

February 24 2014 | Guest post by Carrie Anne
Coffee addiction is real, and it might be keeping you up at night, no matter when you drink it!
Coffee addiction is real, and it might be keeping you up at night, no matter when you drink it!

Some people might think this is blasphemy, but I gave up my coffee habit.

I work overnights. I wake up when the rest of the world goes to bed… then stare at a computer screen in solitude for most of my shift. As you can imagine, it's not particularly easy to go to bed at 2pm. Nor is it easy to wake up at 9:30pm.

I was intrigued when a radio DJ I follow on twitter — who works about the same hours I do — mentioned that he had given up caffeine for a while, and had never slept better.

But… I had been getting through my odd hours with the aid of coffee! By the standards of one cup being eight ounces: I'd been drinking probably three-to-four cups a day. It would wake me up. And then, on the weekends (which suck for overnight workers — no staying up past eight on a Friday night), I'd get coffee and still be able to fall asleep, standing up, at a heavy metal concert.

There was no way I was going to be able to give up coffee. But I decided to cut the coffee cord when my house had a bit of a mice issue (mouse issue?) and I woke up to find a little "present" from one of our "friends" on top of the coffee maker. No thanks. Then my backup, the gas station, was cleaning their coffee makers, and didn't have any coffee! Jerks.

So, I said to myself, "now would be a good time to try and get that coffee monkey off my back."

I don't recommend doing what I did. Cold turkey is not good. I felt like absolute crap every night at work for a week. I ended up having a couple Diet Cokes when my head crashed into my keyboard, and I started dreaming about ex-boyfriends.

But, during my allotted sleep time at home, I slept like a baby! (And in the midst of Mousepocalypse 2013, no less.)

Months later, I'm still sleeping great. I fall asleep fast, and generally stay asleep. If I wake up, I go back to dreamland. The withdrawal is gone, and I am making it through my overnight shift without coffee… probably because I'm sleeping better. I do drink quite a bit of green tea now, but it's the non-caffeinated version.

I've watched enough "Behind the Music" and read enough rock-star memoirs to know how addiction works. No, I'm not comparing coffee to cocaine or heroin or even pills or nicotine or alcohol. I'd never minimize the monster of serious addiction like that. But, caffeine was studied as a drug in my freshman psychology class. It works the same: you get an effect, build up a tolerance, realize you feel like a big pile of yuck without it, and then you're a slave to the buzz.

Am I anti-coffee? Hell, no. But I'm not dependent on it every day. When I need a boost, it will actually work — and I can enjoy a romantic dinner with my husband on a Saturday night that isn't at 4pm.

PS: We washed the mouse-tainted coffee maker, by the way. Just in case that part of the story was still bugging you.

For those of you who did ditch coffee, did you find that it helped you sleep? Or is it worth sleeping poorly to stay awake?

  1. Ah caffeine withdrawal…I remember the pain!
    After finding out I was pregnant last summer I went from about 5 or 6 cups of coffee a day to nothing – cold turkey was not the best way forwards as I felt like crap for about a week afterwards, migranes due to no coffee combined with morning sickness was not fun!

    Fast forward 9 months or so and I feel so much better for it – the sleep that I am getting feels less restless than it did when I was drinking so much caffiene. Now the little'un is here I'm debating whether or not it's worth starting to drink the stuff again at all or whether "everything in moderation" is the key…I do love good coffee!

    1 agrees
    • Ah yes…I transitioned out of caffeinated coffee for the same reason. Morning sickness then provided me with the extra "do-not-want-to-have-that" motivation. For weeks, the thought of coffee (and wine, too) turned my stomach. A few weeks ago, after continually craving coffee again (but knowing I shouldn't really drink much of it), I started up on decaf coffee and while it's not as tasty as regular, it certainly satisfies.

      This may seem like an excess of information, but I must add that I actually feel as though I run to the bathroom LESS now, even at 27 weeks pregnant, than I did before I was pregnant, when I drank coffee all the time. I'm sure I also hydrate better now, too (or at least to a comparable degree), so it's not because I'm drinking fewer fluids. Just a thought…

  2. I ditched it with yerba mate tea! Teavana's MateVana specifically. I knew cold turkey would just make me a heifer, so I started drinking MateVana, which was coffee-like enough that I made the switch. I was on medication that didn't allow me much regular caffeine, so the mate was a nice alternative, plus some regular tea to switch it up. (And sweet tea. I'm Texan, after all.)
    I know there are LOADS of mate versions out there, and I haven't really tried the true original, so I can't speak to the taste or effects of that. But the overly-expensive American version was tasty, and I did eventually sleep better too!

  3. Let me tell you something about caffeine addiction. When I was in my first year of college, I lived off of caffeine pills and energy drinks. It got to the point where I wasn't eating solid food any more because I couldn't keep it in my stomach. I lost crazy amounts of weight. I slept for maybe two hours a night and crashed at odd times during the day (and then took another caffeine pill or grabbed another energy drink because, hey, school and work and family wait for no naps). Eventually I realized that I had a problem, but when I stopped with the caffeine, I got massively intense migraines that made me want to die, and I still couldn't eat much. It took me almost half a year of allotting myself a little caffeine every day to stave off the headaches and then a little caffeine every other day before I finally got over the withdrawal symptoms. Now I have to be careful not to fall down that hole again, because it's easy – but remembering how much getting through withdrawal sucked the first time, and how many times I had to backslide before I finally did it, helps keep me from getting hooked like that again. No, caffeine isn't like being addicted to heroin or cocaine. In some ways, it's worse, because it's an "acceptable" drug, one you can get in any grocery store or gas station, and because there really isn't anything out there to help people understand that even if it is legal, it's still a kind of drug.

    17 agree
  4. Congrats on kicking the coffee habit!

    I didn't give up coffee per say (to be honest, I never liked the taste of it) but my husband and I gave up soda last November. We were dedicated Pepsi and Mountain Dew drinkers, drinking about several cans a day just to stay awake. Ended up realizing that caffeine is really bad for my asthma meds and our diet, so we both gave it up on the same time.

    It was hard at first (headaches were killer), but after the first week it started getting easier. Now it's been several months and we're still going strong without soda.

    It's pretty awesome how much our sleep has improved too. Before this, we would wake up several times a night and never felt rested in the morning. Now, we both sleep throughout the night without any issues. Also, we both dropped a pants size. Woot, woot!

    2 agree
  5. I actually never started drinking coffee because it always made me feel very sick (the same for tea). I always get odd looks when I say: no coffee or tea for me, I'll have water for breakfast. I have never missed it and when I get tired I have a short nap. That's just it.

    4 agree
    • Yay hydration! Water for breakfast doesn't sound like a bad idea at all! Dehydration can definitely cause you to be tired. I had a health teacher say that a good practice is to drink a full glass of water right when you wake up to get everything, um, moving properly.

      I am lucky I enjoy the taste of water. I have friends who just don't like to drink water, and rarely do. I'm like, "your cells are crying out for hydration! I can hear them!"

      http://www.webmd.com/balance/boost-energy

      2 agree
      • Oh I didn't know that. Thank you for the information!
        Actually I love drinking water (more than anything else), so it's no problem for me. But I also have these friends and I feel you :).

        2 agree
      • I had a terrible time getting out of bed at all (nausea, headaches, depression every morning) until I started drinking 3 glasses of water first thing. I keep a big container of water by my bed, so I don't actually have get out of bed before I do it. I didn't realize there was science behind it making me feel so much more energized. It works even if I've only had 3 hours of sleep. And I don't even want coffee anymore, unless it's one of those expensive frouffy drinks on a date at a coffee shop.

        2 agree
    • My brother used to work 3rd shift as a security guard. When he first started the job, he drank about a 2-liter bottle of Coke every day to get that caffeine and sugar buzz to keep him going. But eventually he switched to drinking water, and said he felt so much more energized after a water than when he was drinking all that Coke!
      Now I think he's lost about 20 lbs, and looks a lot healthier than when he was a 3rd shift zombie-caffeine-slave.

      2 agree
    • I grew up in a no-coffee-no-tea-no-caffeinated-sodas household and have never gotten the hang of caffeine – every time I've tried coffee my heart has started beating crazy fast and it's Un!Comfortable. And I sometimes really hate the looks you get when you're at a coffee shop or at someone's house and you ask for just water, or even hot chocolate… BUT, in New Zealand, you can ask for "hot juice." It's usually blackcurrant, but sometimes lemon and honey, and it comes in a tea cup and tastes delicious, and it's a 'normal' adult thing to order. I miss it as an option when I'm visiting home. I've even started keeping the blackcurrant cordial mix (Barkers FTW! http://www.barkers.co.nz/) at home and having hot juice with breakfast on the odd, cold, lazy morning when my Dude is having his cup of coffee.

      3 agree
    • Yes! I do like coffee, but I feel like its acidic nature doesn't agree with my empty stomach. My mother in law is always dismayed that I don't have something hot to drink with breakfast…

      • This! I quit coffee the day I handed my thesis in and haven't had heartburn since. I sleep pretty much solidly for three days straight being woken up for occasional meals. I still drink tea and previously had it every morning. Now I have it on weekends and maybe some green or herbal tea after lunch when I'm at work. My mother in law is annoyed that we "can't go out for coffee".

  6. I used to drink four espressos a day when I was in cégep (from 17 to 19 years-old). Then in university, I started drinking tea instead, getting the occasional coffee for library study and kept on like that, drinking coffee at the restaurant or at home on week-ends, or in social situations. I actually enjoy the taste quite a lot.
    However, I am now in my late 20's and a few year ago I had a health issue that had me taking massive amounts of anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants. I had to stop anything caffeinated, beer, kimchi, anything really spicy at all. My stomach just couldn't take it anymore. It's been a few years now, and I still can't have coffee unless I take a number of precautions to stave off some serious melting-from-the-inside-can-hardly-breathe-let-alone-move heartburn.
    I have tea occasionally, but I try to stay caffeine-free. It feels like, since I don't have it regularly at all anymore, caffeine gets my heart racing in no time.

    One thing I've learned from all this : coffee is everywhere! And very tempting.

    Also : chamomille tea works wonders on heartburn 😉 Really, better than a tea spoon of baking soda in tepid water (and it tastes much better too!)

  7. Man, I love coffee. I mean, really love it. I love the ritual of making it, the smell, the first cup enjoyed on the front porch while I watch the birds eating at the bird feeder. It's such a pleasant part of my day that I can't imagine wanting to give it up. And I sleep just fine at night, honestly. I do take a dose of Wild Lettuce extract every night, but that's because pain used to wake me up in the middle of the night, not coffee. If I have to go a day without it (say, early road trip without possibility of bathroom breaks, or we've just run out) I don't notice a real difference in my functioning ability. Maybe I'm just lucky, or maybe I'm in denial.

    I understand that not everyone wants to consume caffeine daily, and more power to anyone for doing what they feel like they need to do to be/feel more healthy. But I have so few enjoyable vices left that I'll keep my coffee habit, thanks. 🙂

    6 agree
    • Keep the habit! I think this definitely depends on the person. My husband still drinks quite a bit and sleeps like a baby every night. Sleep has always kinda been an issue for me, so I will take whatever precautions I can to be able to sleep soundly. But I also love everything about coffee–making it…drinking it…sharing it!

      2 agree
      • I know everyone is different…my husband gets geeked out from one cup of coffee. Maybe it's because I grew up in a family of "the pot is always on" coffee drinkers, and he didn't really drink coffee at all till he met me and I introduced him to the concept of Starbucks.

        I really do like that wild lettuce extract…I can tell a difference in my sleep quality from taking it, and I have a couple friends who have used it for insomnia with good results. Whatever works!

        2 agree
  8. An afternoon cup of coffee was giving me problems sleeping at night, so I replaced it with 2 cups of tea. Spreading out the caffeine intake helps keep my energy levels more even throughout the day.
    I need to look this stuff up again, but coffee and tea don't just have caffeine- they have mixtures of methylxanthines, including caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline. I think the ratio of these changes in coffee or different types of teas.
    I've started drinking Yerba Mate- which has a mix of all 3 methylxanthines. It's very energizing without making you jittery or anxious like coffee does. I'm thinking that maybe the ratio is different? If I find the source I am thinking of, I will update this.

    1 agrees
  9. I drank ungodly amounts of coffee in college. I spent a few weeks in England (where the coffee sucked) and quit while I was there. It was horrible. I was sick the first few afternoons. I got chills, shakes. I woke up one night and couldn't get warm with all the blankets on me and two layers of clothes. In the middle of the hottest summer England had seen in decades.

    When I came home, I went back on coffee, but I cut down the amount significantly. I have the same amount every day, and I only drink it in the morning.

    BTW, I used to work night shifts, and my schedule now is extremely variable. I loved it. I have trouble going to bed at a "normal" hour and always have. Night shifts aren't for everyone, and if it's not natural and normal to you, then you're probably messing up your health very badly by doing it. Doctors would probably say that even if it is natural to you, you're messing up your health doing it. You may want to seriously consider whether or not working the night shift is worth what it's doing to your body.
    http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/shift-work-sleep-disorder-topic-overview

    • I am actually changing shifts very soon! Thanks for the info. It's pretty scary to read about how changing up your body's rhythm can affect all aspects of your health. I have managed okay, but, yes, part of the reason I'm changing is that I don't want to work these hours much longer. (It's been 3 and a half years).

      Overnights/third shift works for some people…but I find it's most annoying on the weekends. I've tried naps so I can stay up and go out with friends at night–which sometimes works. I've also tried keeping my schedule (sleep during the day, stay up all night) on weekends…but that wasn't great because I was awake and alone and I got really down. Netflix is only entertaining for so long!

      2 agree
      • I was the floater in hotels for years before I got a full-time overnight job. It was the bloody worst. I worked overnight two nights a week and (if I was lucky) three nights a week as a 3-11 girl.

  10. I recently did this! I'd been having problems with having (fairly minor, but still unpleasant) panic attacks at night when I was trying to go to bed. My heart would start racing for no reason, I would freak out about it, and then it would become a self-perpetuating cycle and I wouldn't be able to fall asleep for hours. I went to the doctor about it, and she asked if I drank caffeine. I did, but only a cup or so a day, which she said probably wouldn't be enough to have an effect like that.

    But, out of curiosity, I cut out caffeine completely for a week anyway. And the panic attacks stopped! It's been a little over a month now, and I feel so much better. I do still occasionally drink a cup on the weekend, but for the most part I've switched over to decaffeinated tea. I wouldn't have thought that one cup in the morning would have affected me so many hours later… but apparently it does. Go figure.

    • Some people are definitely more sensitive to caffeine than others. Caffeine's half-life (you metabolize about half of it out of your system) is 6 hours. So by bedtime, it's possible you still had some floating around in your system.
      My family is full of caffeine-sensitives and this is exactly what happens to them.
      If you do love the taste of caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, Coke, etc. you can find caffeine-free versions that are actually quite good. If you don't like the taste of "decaf" drinks, try organic or high-end brands – they tend to taste "fuller" than cheap decaf.

      2 agree
  11. Did anyone else think from the title that there must be some mouse-poo derivative that's good for dealing with caffeine withdrawal? I mean, there are all sorts of things made out of urine (historically, The Pill was derived from pregnant mares' urine), mould (penicillin), and even poo (I've mostly seen paper-products), so why not?

    13 agree
    • Also don't forget fecal transplants, where the poop IS the cure!

      I kind of thought she would be referring to her own poop…but I wasn't sure exactly what "mouse poops" from a human would mean. I remember my mom watching Oprah or Dr. Oz (or maybe when Dr. Oz was on Oprah?) decades ago, and there was a woman who had poops like "tiny marbles" because she drank like 12 cans of soda a day.

      3 agree
    • I happened to catch an episode of Dr. Oz a while back, where he had a neuroscientist on the show, helping women get rid of their cravings. Apparently if you think about something yucky when you're also thinking about something good, the "yucky" overrides the good, and you no longer want it as strongly.
      If I think about poopy coffee, I definitely wouldn't want to drink it. I think this may be part of what happened to the original poster, the psych-out was stronger than her caffeine cravings.

      2 agree
      • Apparently if you think about something yucky when you're also thinking about something good, the "yucky" overrides the good, and you no longer want it as strongly.

        I have done this with my social media/email addictive tendencies. When I'm embroiled in dramas, I'll be like Ooh, I should check my… NO I SHOULDN'T BAD FEELINGS AHOY STAY AWAY.

      • That is completely a thing because I was studying in Prague in 2006 and wasn't feeling all that well, so I tracked down a Chinese restaurant to get some Sweet and Sour Chicken because it was a major comfort food for me. Fast forward five hours and I was throwing up all night long because it turns out I had the flu. I haven't eaten Sweet and Sour Chicken since because I now associate it with unstoppable vomiting.

  12. Oh man caffeine withdrawal is the worst! I was up to 2 10cup pots of coffee a day when I was in grad school, working, and interning. I think I was averaging 3 hours of sleep during the week. I went cold turkey the day after graduation had migraines for months and it was hard to get back to a normal sleep schedule and even 3 years after finishing my sleep cycle is still really sensitive.
    I just started drinking tea when I need a little extra something and it is so much easier on my digestive track and a cup at 8am isn't making it hard for me to get into bed at 10pm.

    1 agrees
  13. I kicked coffee for a month (cold turkey), and to be honest it wasn't too terrible. I did deal with a few headaches and I was definitely exhausted for that first week or two (I kicked sugar to the curb at the same time). I did it for health reasons as I suffer from an endocrine disorder and both caffeine and sugar aggravate my symptoms. I will say I felt great for that month, I wasn't dependent on anything, didn't need any caffeine kick…. But I missed my coffee… Like I sincerely LOVE my coffee. I love the ritual, the taste…. and I couldn't find any substitute that remotely came close to my love for coffee ( I tried DandyBlend, which was ok but lacked the bitterness I love so dearly).

    So after a month I was back on the coffee, but thankfully not every day and not the three or four cups a day I was doing. I think detoxing from coffee was definitely worth it, and it gave me more control over drinking it. But I still love to have a coffee every now and again. Admittedly when school and work deadlines kick in I still find myself having a cup to two cups a day, but afterwards because I'm aware of it, I can ease off again. I can't say I would have had that control prior to quitting coffee (ok, I didn't have that control. At all.).

    1 agrees
    • Have you tried fixing your coffee half-caf? Get the decaf counterpart to your regular coffee, and mix them together when you brew a pot. Still gives you a fuller flavor, but cuts down on the jitters.
      I also recommend trying a Swiss water process decaf coffee. They're decaffeinated without the use of chemicals that can change the coffee's flavor.
      I am embarrassed to admit that my favorite Swiss process decaf is actually the WalMart brand organic decaf. It's even cheaper than my regular coffee, but I love the flavor! I'm a decaf convert now.

      1 agrees
  14. Dammit! I misread that as MOOSE poops, not MOUSE poops…thought is was going to be something along the lines of moose sized poops. Which made me think of this:

    5 agree
  15. In case you are trying to kick the habit but still like the ritual of coffee drinking, I just heard about Dandy Blend, an herbal mix which is supposed to taste like coffee AND be super good for you. I'm not a coffee drinker and have never tried it so I can't vouch for it, but I am going to get some for my partner to help him move off coffee.

    http://www.dandyblend.com/

    • Yes! My parents drink Pero (also called Caro ) and caffe d'orzo (the brand name they bought was Oskri, but that might not be sold anymore? It's like Postum, which I'm almost positive isn't sold anymore…) The water has to be really hot for it to dissolve, but my mom says it tastes like coffee to her and since there's no caffeine at all, you can get the coffee fix without the cracked out side effects.

  16. I didn't totally give up coffee, as I still drink it, but I drastically reduced my consumption and feel better for it. I went from 3-4 cups a day to more like 1 a day, and I feel so much better. My sleep wasn't really affected by it, but not depending on coffee to wake up in the morning has been really good. I never feel like my heart is going to explode any more as I occasionally did when I had too much coffee. Now I have one most mornings, but not always. Occasionally I'll have a second one if I go out for coffee with someone, but that's all. It's saved me money too, as a soy latte is $5 in these parts!

  17. eeeeeew mouse poop! yuck. i actually had to give coffee up because i have reflux. 🙁 i didn't even drink that much of it. 1-2 cups, maybe twice a week? i still indulge, but decaf only for me.

    i showed my future intended this article, and he told me i could pry his coffee out of his cold dead fingers. not gonna pick that battle. lol

    1 agrees
  18. I'm a total evangelist for giving up caffeine! I quit about 3 years ago and it was the best health decision I ever made. I switched to decaf, and haven't found I notice any difference in taste. Giving up caffeine pretty much cured me of my frequent headaches. I felt terrible for about a week after I quit, but then my headaches disappeared almost completely, which is a *huge* change from my caffeinated days when I would get one or two every week. I sleep great, and I honestly never miss the coffee buzz, because I'm less tired in general. Plus my stomach is calmer. I don't think I'll ever go back to caffeine, it's evil stuff and I never realized that until I stopped drinking it.

    1 agrees
  19. I am taking this as a "check yourself, before you wreck yourself" post as I am about to embark on my own graveyard shift adventure. Super excited to do it, but here I was, all prepared to stock up on coffee and energy drinks. Welp! Now to find what works for me instead. Thanks for sharing your tale!

    1 agrees
    • Good luck! Let us know how it goes!

      I actually eased into the overnight hours, for 3 years before I went full time 11 pm-7 am, I did some variation of a shift that started at 2 am or 3 am.

      I've learned a lot–you'll have to find your best sleep schedule, but whenever it is, I urge you to protect it! Like–phone off (or at least on silent), and create a peaceful environment to sleep in if you can. It took me awhile–and some temper tantrums I'm not proud of–to let my friends and family know that, yes, I am at home all day, but it doesn't mean I'm not doing anything. I'm sleeping!

      Good sleep, lots of water, and taking "get up and stretch" breaks can keep you from energy drink overload. Again, good luck on your new adventure!

    • This may sound obvious, but darkening the room is a big plus too. My dad always worked nights when I was a kid but it took years and years before we got any shades in the bedroom. We just didn't think of it. (We had a curtain-free mostly door-free house.)

      By the way – it was super awesome because he was almost always around. I'm still trying to figure out how he got by on so little sleep, though…

      1 agrees
  20. I've never been much of a coffee drinker but at the end of the last summer I started drinking those Starbucks mocha drinks everyday and sometimes I'd have a frozen coffee beverage once or twice a week for drives in my hot car. This went on for weeks and weeks and I started getting an intense pain in my boobs. I went to the doctor and ended up getting a mammogram. Everything came back clear, luckily, but my naturopath mentioned that it might be the coffee that was causing it since it started right after my upswing in coffee consumption. I stopped drinking coffee (which wasn't hard because I never really drank coffee until this time) and the boob pain went away almost overnight. Lesson learned! Coffee is not for me!

    1 agrees

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