Caffeine Withdrawal: How Long It Lasts & Key Symptoms Explained

Quitting caffeine can be as tough as an actual breakup. Get the lowdown on caffeine withdrawal.

May 7, 2024
A hand holding a cup of overflowing coffee.

Quitting caffeine’s a bit like an on-off relationship. You decide you’re going to leave them for good, only to feel terrible when you do. You then go back, and the cycle starts all over again.

Caffeine withdrawal can be a real pain, and often the side effects lead to people simply giving up kicking the habit and going back to their cup of joe. We’ll take you through the key points of caffeine withdrawal, including symptoms to watch out for and why you have them, to tips on how to make the process easier.

What is Caffeine Withdrawal?

Caffeine withdrawal is a blanket term given to the set of symptoms you may experience when you go from having caffeine regularly to having none at all. They can vary from physical symptoms such as headaches and fatigue, to mental and emotional ones, like irritability and low mood. 

How Does Caffeine Withdrawal Differ from Caffeine Crash?

The symptoms of caffeine withdrawal and caffeine crash look too similar, so how do they differ? The answer depends on when they typically occur. Caffeine withdrawal happens when you haven't had caffeine in your system for quite some time. A caffeine crash, on the other hand, usually happens when you've had caffeine when you're feeling tired. For example, drinking strong coffee after a sleepless night to keep you awake and focused for work.

Your body quickly metabolizes the caffeine you have consumed. This leads to a rush of adenosine that the caffeine has been blocking. As adenosine builds up in the body and binds to its receptors, it makes us feel more tired and prompts the body to want to sleep. The adenosine rush then results in a sudden drop in energy and mood.

How Long Does Caffeine Withdrawal Last?

Studies generally agree that the worst of the caffeine withdrawal symptoms happen between 20-50 hours of no caffeine and can last up to 9 days on average [1]. In the most extreme of cases, it could take almost 2 weeks for caffeine withdrawal to go away.

Caffeine remains in your bloodstream for up to 10 hours after consumption, with a half-life of five hours. This means that five hours after having a cup of coffee (let’s say it has 100mg of caffeine), you’d still have 50mg of it still active in your system. There’s still enough caffeine to cause some effects.

The symptoms of caffeine withdrawal usually kick in between 12 and 24 hours after stopping caffeine. How long these last and their severity will differ from person to person. Some may find the symptoms tolerable, while others can become very uncomfortable.

What are the Symptoms of Caffeine Withdrawal?

You may experience many unpleasant side effects when going through caffeine withdrawal. It can be as simple as a headache to uncomfortable tremors and increased anxiety. We’ll go through them below, and why you end up having them.


One of the most common symptoms of caffeine withdrawal is headaches. They can often be incredibly painful, and a reason why some people can be reluctant to cut down on their caffeine intake.

Caffeine withdrawal headaches are caused by its effects on the brain’s blood vessels. Caffeine can cause the blood vessels to narrow [2]. When the body goes into caffeine withdrawal, the blood vessels begin opening up again, increasing blood flow. This then causes the painful headaches you experience as the increased blood flow and pressure press on the nerves.

Low Mood

Caffeine is a real mood booster for many reasons. It blocks adenosine and helps boost happy chemicals like dopamine in the brain [3]. Not only that, it’s also a stimulant. As stimulants increase processes within the body, caffeine can often give a boost of energy and mood, one of the reasons why it can be particularly addictive [4]. 

When the caffeine is gone, the good feelings can often go with it. This is why those choosing to cut out caffeine can end up experiencing low mood.


Heavy caffeine consumers should avoid quitting cold turkey to avoid tremors. Drinking a lot of caffeine can lead to shaking. This is especially true for those with a sensitivity to it.

Tremors are caused by caffeine’s effects on the central nervous system [5]. As caffeine is a stimulant, it accelerates various processes within the body, including those in the muscles. Over time, the body compensates for the physiological effects of caffeine to reduce the tremors.

When we cut out caffeine, the central nervous system has to get used to operating without it again. This is what causes the tremors we see in caffeine withdrawal, which usually present as shaking or trembling of the hands [1]. 

Related: How To Stop Heart Palpitations From Caffeine?

Low Energy Level/Fatigue

Cutting down on caffeine can lead to low energy levels and fatigue, and those who drink it daily will be affected more than most [6]. 

This is because the body gets used to the additional energy boost provided by the caffeine. With it gone, it has to try to use more resources to compensate. Additionally, the caffeine is no longer there to inhibit your body’s levels of adenosine, a chemical that promotes sleep [7].

Related: Why Does Coffee Make Me Tired?


If you’re cutting down on your caffeine, expect to be a bit grumpy. Irritability is a key symptom of caffeine withdrawal, especially for those who rely on it to provide a mood boost.

This can be one of the very first symptoms of caffeine withdrawal and may appear in just a few hours post-caffeine. It’s most common after a night’s sleep as your body metabolizes and becomes free of caffeine [1].

If you think this might be a bit far-fetched, think about how many people you know who are cranky before their first cup of coffee in the morning!


Anxiety is one of the symptoms of high caffeine consumption. At high levels, caffeine can stimulate the fight-or-flight response, so you feel more anxious and stressed.

However, caffeine withdrawal also triggers anxiety. That’s because the body can become dependent on caffeine not just on a physical level but also on a mental one, so abrupt cessation can trigger the same negative feelings [1]. 

If you enjoy sugar in your coffee, then these feelings of anxiety may become worse. A study shows that weaning your body off of sugar has the same effect [8].

Decreased Focus

If you’re cutting down on caffeine, you may be off your game for a little while and may be unable to focus properly. This is because your body is trying to adjust to being without caffeine, which is what’s helping you focus. 

Caffeine stimulates the production of several chemicals within the body that boost your alertness and focus. These include adrenaline, dopamine, and norepinephrine [9,10]. The body gets used to these new chemical levels, and once the caffeine is gone, it can struggle to produce these on its own.

FAQs: Caffeine Withdrawal and Intake

Below are some of the commonly asked questions about caffeine withdrawal. We’ve also included questions on how caffeine consumption affects you in general. 

1. How can I reduce my caffeine intake?

If you don’t want to stop consuming caffeine completely, there are ways to reduce your caffeine consumption. You could switch to a lower-caffeine blend, for example. If you drink pure robusta coffee like Cafely’s Ban Me or HaNoi, you might want to switch to the lower caffeine blend like SaiGon OG or their pure arabica coffee, DaLat

Robusta coffee on the whole has more caffeine than arabica, with 2.7% caffeine in robusta beans compared to 1.5% in arabica. So, if you’re drinking mainly robusta, you can essentially halve your caffeine intake by making the switch to arabica.

You could also try cutting down on your caffeine intake by reducing the number of cups you drink per day. Or you can set a caffeine curfew and stop having caffeine after a certain time

Related: How Much Caffeine Is in Vietnamese Coffee?

2. How addictive is coffee?

Caffeine is a stimulant and a psychoactive substance, and so its effects can cause addiction or dependency [11]. If you’re worried about your caffeine intake or feel you may be too reliant on it to function, you might want to have a chat with your doctor or another health professional. 

3. Can you avoid a caffeine withdrawal headache?

Headaches can be one of the worst things about caffeine withdrawal. To minimize it, keep yourself hydrated with plenty of water, take painkillers if needed, or apply an ice pack to your forehead or the back of your neck.

4. Is there anything that can make my caffeine withdrawal worse?

The more caffeine you consume, the worse your caffeine withdrawal will be. Try to cut down gradually to lessen the impact. You should also avoid drinks containing caffeine, so stay away from energy drinks or tea.

5. What’s a good caffeine alternative?

If you want to move away from caffeine entirely, you could look at the energizing effects of ginseng, apples, and bananas. Their active compounds may help boost your energy and focus.


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  2. Jones, H. E., Herning, R. I., Cadet, J. L., & Griffiths, R. R. (2000). Caffeine withdrawal increases cerebral blood flow velocity and alters quantitative electroencephalography (EEG) activity. Psychopharmacology, 147(4), 371–377.
  3. Fiani, B. (2021). The Neurophysiology of Caffeine as a Central Nervous System Stimulant and the Resultant Effects on Cognitive Function. Cureus, 13(5).
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  5. Louis, Elan D., Meyers, James H., Cristal, Ashley D., & Factor-Litvak, P. (2018). Caffeine Consumption in First-Degree Relatives of Essential Tremor Cases: Evidence of Dietary Modification Before Disease Onset. Neuroepidemiology, 51(1-2), 64–70.
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  7. Reichert, C. F., Deboer, T., & Landolt, H. (2022). Adenosine, caffeine, and sleep–wake regulation: state of the science and perspectives. Journal of Sleep Research, 31(4).
  8. Kim, S., Shou, J., Abera, S., & Ziff, E. B. (2018). Sucrose withdrawal induces depression and anxiety-like behavior by Kir2.1 upregulation in the nucleus accumbens. Neuropharmacology, 130, 10–17. 
  9. Rodak, K., Kokot, I., & Kratz, E. M. (2021). Caffeine as a Factor Influencing the Functioning of the Human Body—Friend or Foe? Nutrients, 13(9), 3088.
  10. Volkow, N. D., Wang, G-J., Logan, J., Alexoff, D., Fowler, J. S., Thanos, P. K., Wong, C., Casado, V., Ferre, S., & Tomasi, D. (2015). Caffeine increases striatal dopamine D2/D3 receptor availability in the human brain. Translational Psychiatry, 5(4), e549–e549.
  11. Evans, J., Battisti, A. S., & Richards, J. R. (2023, June 8). Caffeine.; StatPearls Publishing.