My Caffeine Experiment

So, I recently conducted a very unscientific experiment involving caffeine intake and its effects on my anxiety. For about a week I chronicled in my journal whether I drank caffeinated coffee, decaf coffee, or no coffee, and how I felt on the given day.

I also made a sacrifice in the name of “science”, and wore my Apple Watch (see this post for some background on my Apple Watch experience) to track my average resting heart rate so I could have a somewhat measurable metric beyond “this is how I felt”. Though given my anxiety brought about by the Apple Watch, I wonder if that shifted my results any.

So, over the course of the week, I tried a few different types of coffee:

  1. Iced coffee from the local café
  2. Hot coffee made at home
  3. Iced decaf coffee from the local café
  4. Hot decaf coffee at home

Each type I drank once, aside from the hot coffee at home which I drank twice, the first time on Sunday as a control, and then again on Monday. The other 2 days I drank no coffee.

In terms of metrics, on 2 of the days I drank caffeinated coffee, my average resting heart rate, as well as my overall anxiety was highest. My average heart rate was 76bpm, and I rated my overall anxiety as a 4/10. However, weirdly the second day I drank the homemade coffee my resting heart rate was 67bpm, and my overall anxiety was a 3/10.

On the 2 days I drank decaf, the results were wildly different. The day I drank the homemade decaf, my heart rate was 64bpm, and my anxiety was pretty low at another 3/10. But on the day I drank the decaf from the café, my heart rate was 70bpm, and my anxiety was at a 5/10. I had to be out most of the day though, so I’m thinking that threw off the data a bit.

Finally, on the days I drank no coffee at all I got the most consistent data, with an average resting heart rate of 64bpm one day, and 67bpm another. Both days, I rated my anxiety a 3/10. Also, interestingly consistent with the homemade decaf.

In the notes I made on how I felt throughout the week, I mentioned that on the days I didn’t drink coffee I felt tired and slow, and I’d even say depressed. The days I drank decaf, I didn’t feel so sleepy and sluggish, but I didn’t quite feel alert. The days I drank coffee were, aside from the anxiety, the best days. I was alert, productive, and just generally felt better (again, excluding the anxiety).

What did I learn? Nothing I didn’t already know: I’ve become too reliant on caffeine. It became a bit of a problem when I started my current job and was finishing my web development boot camp. I think I overextended myself a bit, and to keep up I turned to coffee. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that my anxiety became less manageable in this time, and I think my “experiment” somewhat backs that up.

Furthermore, I think I need to run another small experiment with decaf from the local café, but overall I think decaf or nothing is the answer. I also want to do another experiment with tea at some point, but that’s for another time.

Well, thanks for coming with me on this weird journey. I realize this wasn’t my normal type of content, and I’m not sure my findings are really news to anybody. “Caffeine + Anxiety = Bad” is pretty common knowledge, but I’m a bit of a nerd and like collecting strange data points.

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