If you wake up and can’t seem to function before you’ve had a cup of coffee, you’re not alone. Millions of people consume caffeine every day to increase energy, minimize fatigue and improve concentration. For some, it feels like an absolute necessity, while for others it’s more of a habit than anything else. However, consuming too much caffeine in a day can have dangerous consequences.
According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. That’s about four cups of brewed coffee. More than that and you’re likely to experience some negative side effects including:
- Rapid Heart Rate – Caffeine excites your nervous system, so it can put more pressure on your heart to keep up with this stimulated body state. As this happens, your heart rate may speed up to accommodate the extra work of your body. Having a rapid heart rate can be dangerous, especially for those who have a heart condition or suffer from irregular heart rhythms.
- Insomnia – Caffeine helps to keep you awake and alert, so it makes sense that too much could interfere with your sleep patterns. It’s best to avoid caffeine several hours before going to bed since this could prolong the amount of time it takes for you to fall asleep. Even if you haven’t had caffeine recently, having more than the recommended amount over the course of the day can still affect your ability to fall asleep at night. This can create a negative cycle whereby people don’t sleep well at night and then rely more on caffeine during the day.
- Headaches and Nausea – The diuretic effects of caffeine can cause nausea and even vomiting in some people. Drinking too much coffee can also lead to headaches due to the stimulant effects on the brain.
- Muscle Tremors – if you are a coffee drinker, you are likely familiar with the muscle tremors or feeling of jitters that sometimes accompanies caffeine consumption. This is due to the increased stimulation in the brain and nervous system.
- Decreased Bone Mass Density – Over time, consuming large amounts of caffeine may decrease a person’s bone mass density. Scientists believe this is due to the way in which caffeine interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. In severe cases, a person with significant loss in bone mass could develop osteoporosis.
- Breast Lumps – Women who drink too much coffee may develop one or more painful lumps in their breasts, also known as fibrocystic disease. Usually, simply cutting back on the amount of caffeine consumed can eliminate the lumps
Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. For those people, even just one cup of caffeinated tea can cause unwanted side effects. How you react can in part be determined by how much caffeine you’re used to. If you don’t normally drink coffee, then find yourself at a coffee shop twice in one day; you may discover that you are more sensitive to the caffeine. Other factors may include body mass, age, medication use and health conditions such as anxiety disorders. Research suggests that men are more susceptible to the effects of caffeine than women.
If you do find yourself with these sometimes-painful side effects, it may be time to trade in your cup of Joe for a glass of water and look for more natural ways to increase your energy levels.