Curiosity – Caffeine Is Bad

I had some thoughts about tiredness, which are plausibly related to caffeine use – perhaps in different ways for different people.


Thoughts:

Tiredness is often intentional, not just a result of e.g. poor organisation.

Intentional tiredness falls within a range of tiredness.

Outside the range, there is

(a) too much sense of obligation from high functioning (i.e. too little tiredness; btw I think this is often related to overreaching, and second-handedness about goals); or
(b) the desire for nothing but to sleep (i.e. too much tiredness).

Within the range, there is the imagined permission (and still the remaining ability) to do certain low-skill things that one wants to do anyway, but which one would be ashamed to do if one’s thinking was less handicapped. E.g. John wants to watch a show, but if John is not fatigued, he beats himself up about having to do some work.


Tiredness is also not necessarily intentional, but tolerated as downside of doing what one wants at night.

Similar to before, the night is generally thought of as a more permissive period than the day. People want to enjoy those extra permissions, so they stay up past a reasonable bed time.

(Even if they subsequently wake up late, not having a disciplined sleep schedule causes them tiredness problems (which they are aware of). There are schedule-based mechanisms in the body that can’t keep up with fluctuating whims about when to go to bed (my understanding).)


I think that there are a couple of key ingredients for solving a lot of people’s tiredness which ~solved mine:

  1. honest introspection about why your sleep schedule is as it is; and
  2. learning about why you should value optimised thinking processes (as a result of good sleep), about to what goals those processes can be valuably applied.

Being able to live by default without fatigue is like a superpower. Yet people are not ready to receive it. This is a tragedy.

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You in this article:

Do you think the people running the coffee industry are more ethical than the people making mobile games with predatory monetization? Are they more ethical than the people who run cigarette companies? Don’t trust them and their biased, self-serving propaganda aimed at getting people addicted in order to get their money.

You quoting yourself in an article you wrote in 2014:

cigarettes are a good thing. the tobacco industry is … industry. it sells things to voluntary customers that they value more than what they pay (even despite large taxes and other regulatory hinderances). we should have generally positive opinions of tobacco companies

How do you square these two viewpoints?

Thanks for pointing that out.

In a hypothetical free market utopia, a comment like my 2014 comment could be correct, though it’d still be worth mentioning that physically addictive drugs are bad, as well as brain-affecting drugs. People voluntarily do lots of dumb things. I wouldn’t want to run a tobacco company because I think smoking is bad. People who think smoking is bad should do something else with their lives instead. I didn’t understand enough about how we don’t live in that more capitalist world, so my comment was problematic.

I still think it’s bad for Epstein to tie his pro-fossil-fuel advocacy to smearing tobacco companies (without much detail). Also maybe he should look into and talk about some of the many ways I’m now confident that fossil fuel companies have behaved awfully (like ~every industry). He could put it in context and still defend them overall, but they don’t have a bunch of wonderful people running them. A few individual fossil fuel executives might be great people (which would be worth researching, explaining, praising, etc. if there are some awesome ones) but I’m confident lots of high level fossil fuel executives suck. Maybe, if he did that, people would stop calling him a fossil fuel industry shill – or at least he’d have a more effective counter argument.

Also I don’t want cigarettes or coffee banned.

Overall I’ve lowered my opinion of all industries. Epstein seems more pro-industry in general and just picked on one particular industry because it’s widely unpopular. I don’t know whether cigarette company executives were worse than some of the stuff being done today (or then) with e.g. food additives – it’s possible that they were/are but I don’t think Epstein knows either.

Today I argue with people like George Reisman and other pro-capitalists who are IMO way too friendly to Amazon, Jeff Bezos, sometimes Elon Musk (who is currently trying to break the contract he signed to buy Twitter, who is friends with the Chinese Communist Party, and who routinely breaks laws), social media platforms, and most industries.

As much as I disagree with the leftism, anti-capitalism and pro-governmentism in e.g. https://mattstoller.substack.com I’ve been reading that and thinking a lot of the complaints about industry are good points. I still think Mises is the best author I know of re the theory of monopolies, but we live in a world with a “mixed economy” where industry is less of an approximation of the capitalist ideal than I used to think. (Also Mises was writing many decades ago when industry maybe was more capitalist? I’ve vaguely heard that things started going down hill after the New Deal but I don’t really know the history enough. But I think some of these things, like overall level of government involvement in the economy, have been getting worse.)

To summarize, like most Objectivists and libertarians, I used to think industry was way better than government. Now, without raising my opinion of government, I think (as an over-generalization) that a lot of industry is nearly as bad as government and has a lot of the same flaws (and a lot of industry has significant ongoing relationships with government instead of being clearly separate). Even the “governments initiate force” argument isn’t a clear differentiator when companies lobby the government to initiate force on their behalf.

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Now, without raising my opinion of government, I think (as an over-generalization) that a lot of industry is nearly as bad as government and has a lot of the same flaws (and a lot of industry has significant ongoing relationships with government instead of being clearly separate).

I’m not sure what you mean here. Do you e.g. mean that a lot of industry that is not involved with the government is that bad as well? If that is the case, could you clarify as to why you think that to be the case?

Oh hey this exists. It’s $2 on Kindle and it’s probably at least OK if not good. Carr has a bunch of books.

After reading your article I more clearly categorized my caffeine consumption:
Intentional caffeine - ~50 to ~150 mg, typically consumed between 8am and 11am. Typically 2-4 oz medium roast aeropress coffee mixed with other ingredients, or 6-8oz brewed black or green tea, or 1 100mg caffeine tablet. After I do this for 1-2 months then I taper and completely stop it for a week or two before resuming.

Small incidental caffeine - <~20 mg, consumed at widely variable times during the day. I have some of this on most days. Typically chocolate squares or chocolate desserts without other caffeine-containing ingredients, or decaffeinated black or green tea.

Large incidental caffeine - >~20 mg, also consumed at widely variable times. I do not have this on most days, I’d guess about once a week on average. Typically Thai iced tea with Thai food, or desserts with coffee ingredients, or green tea in the afternoon.

I was about ready for an off-cycle on the intentional caffeine anyway, so I tapered off of it and the last day of intentional caffeine was July 3.

I’ve also avoided all large incidental caffeine sources since then. I have continued to consume small incidental caffeine at my normal rate.

I’m starting to have sleep problems again, which I characterize as waking up 4-6 hours after going to bed and not being able to go back to sleep at all or only after laying awake for 30 minutes or more. There may be causes other than lack of caffeine for this, including the fact that I’m aware of not having caffeine and expecting to have sleep problems, the temperature of my bedroom, and allergies. I’m trying to think of good ways to rule those out.

If you aren’t willing to try quitting all caffeine then you should try eating your chocolate exclusively in the morning. That would make more sense than having other morning caffeine you don’t really want in order to enable non-morning chocolate.

I haven’t ruled out trying to quit caffeine completely again. I just haven’t decided to try that yet.

My reasons for eating chocolate later in the day are logistical / dietary and social. I don’t think it’d be easier for me to consume chocolate exclusively in the morning than to give it up completely with the exception of dark chocolate squares.

Logistical / dietary - I eat whole-grain cereal in the morning for mostly digestive reasons. It’s the only kind of fiber I actually like eating, and most common fiber types (like “roughage” vegetables / basically anything in a salad) I really strongly dislike. If I don’t eat high fiber cereals I have digestive problems. If I eat high fiber cereals later in the day I wake up at night needing to shit, which really wakes me up and disrupts my sleep badly. Eating high fiber cereals in the morning really works for me digestively and I eat kind of a lot (very large bowl every morning). But high fiber cereals are also pretty high in carbs. That’s OK & doesn’t cause me problems with just the cereal but if I add more carbs with it or reasonably soon after (like chocolate desserts) I feel over-carbed which I’d describe as headachy and lethargic. For this reason I also mostly avoid common breakfast go-alongs like bagels, donuts, and other pastries despite the fact that I like them and will eat them later in the day when they’re available. About all I think I could do in the morning without causing over-carb problems would be the dark chocolate squares, which aren’t very carby.

Also, I like having ice cream and ice cream based deserts in the afternoon when it’s hotter. I don’t want them much in the morning even if the carbs weren’t a problem. Cakes, cookies, and pies would be good any time if it weren’t for the carb problems though.

I could of course try to have only non-chocolate versions of stuff like ice cream in the afternoon / evening. But I like chocolate, I’d miss having it, and wouldn’t have much in the morning due to the carb problems so it’d be similar to just quitting it completely.

There’s also a social component sometimes due to people I’m with having stuff I actually like with chocolate in it. It’d be easier to explain trying to give up caffeine completely (which I have done in the past) than how I still eat that stuff but only at the time when they’re not.

Here’s my attempt to summarize your position:

The only moral caffeine is my caffeine. Caffeine is bad in general, and other people ingesting caffeine are making mistakes. I have super good logical reasons to ingest caffeine, but they don’t.

That’s similar to an article that was recently linked at this forum: “The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion”.

I guess I wasn’t clear about the context of my post:

Elliot’s articles did not convince me that caffeine is bad in general or for me specifically. I’m currently undecided about both of those.

What Elliot’s articles convinced me of is that I should pay more attention to caffeine than I had been, and re-examine if it is good or bad for me.

You’re trying to interpret some kind of conclusion (or extra information) in ET’s mind instead of reading what ET said and figuring out what it means. This is a common issue that leads to misunderstandings. A lot of people do it.

Writing always has a limited amount of information, and it’s important to understand both what it says and also what it doesn’t say. The actual thing ET said is simpler and more limited than the sort of interpretation you’re aiming at. You should start by looking at the words and figuring out what they say. Focus on interpreting specific words.

If you understand all the words and ET (or anyone) hasn’t commented on X, then (as an initial and usually correct conclusion) the writing didn’t say something about X. You generally shouldn’t become confused due to your expectation that X would be talked about. And you shouldn’t go out of your way try to interpret the words as being about X because that leads to misinterpretations. Even if you think X is the key issue, other people might disagree. Or they might agree X is the key issue but still share some comments about some other issues.

You talk about what “[ET] mean[s] here [in the quote]“. That shows confusion where you think ET is talking about the issue you’re trying to understand. You didn’t ask for additional thoughts or comments. You didn’t ask for new information or more details. You presented this as you trying to understand what ET already said, not as you asking for new stuff. But he didn’t say the thing you’re looking for in his words. You’re trying to read in something that isn’t there. You’re focusing on high level concepts that you start with instead of starting at the bottom by analyzing the meanings of the words, sentences and paragraphs.

In short, ET said what he said and nothing more, and you should learn to read more literally and do text analysis. You should participate in some of the community activities that ET is facilitating to help people learn. If you clearly knew what ET’s words did and didn’t say, instead of it all being vague in your mind, then I don’t think you would have responded the same way.

Besides interpreting what ET (or anyone) says in a more literal way that better judges what is and isn’t included or stated, it’s also helpful to put some of your own thought and effort into your questions. Your question was lazy and low quality. If you want help with a thought process, you should share more about it. What are your thoughts and goals on this subject, and where did you get stuck that you want help with? (ET has said things like this multiple times, and it’s disrespectful to ignore him about it (while also not saying you disagree and arguing the point, nor saying you have trouble doing it and explaining the problem)). You seem to want ET to say lots of opinions while you say none, and do lots of customized work for your benefit while you do little work, which is problematic especially when you ask non-neutral questions that suggest you maybe disagree with some things for reasons you didn’t give.

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40 posts were split to a new topic: Undermining

I noticed this diet FAQ recommends that everyone quit caffeine even if they have no health problems and aren’t doing the diet:

How Do I Get Off Coffee/Caffeine?

Getting off caffeine cold turkey can be extremely unpleasant and cause caffeine withdrawal. If you’re used to drinking coffee or tea all the time, figure out what amount of caffeine you’re consuming. 1 cup of coffee/ 1 espresso = approx. 64mg caffeine, 1 cup of tea = approx. 26mg caffeine. Switch from coffee/espresso/tea to caffeine pills. Caffeine pills generally have 200mg of caffeine so you’ll need get a pill cutter and cut them in half or a quarter to get the dose right. Start with the same amount of caffeine in pill form and then over the next few weeks wean down and off them, comfortably. The caffeine pills are available at most pharmacies or on Amazon. Pills are much less likely to cause an autoimmune response than coffee, and are much easier to get off of.

Can I Include Caffeine In The Diet?

If you’re suffering from a mood or sleep disorder, I would seriously recommend cutting caffeine completely. I would recommend cutting caffeine for anyone regardless of health problems. It’s a drug and it gives people an up but it’ll also give you a comedown, and can impact mood, energy, and sleep quality. If you feel you absolutely need caffeine and you’ve recovered from your illness, caffeine pills are recommended over coffee or tea.

The Gluten Lie by Alan Levinovitz:

Chlorine-bleached paper tea bags contain dioxin, a known carcinogen that can seep into your hot liquid.

Ugh.

EDIT: Levinovitz apparently doesn’t think this is a real problem, but it’s a real thing companies do and various websites do say it’s a problem.

Progress update:

I have still not resumed intentional or large incidental cafffeine. Some days I have zero or near zero small incidental as well.

Sleep quality in general remains unchanged since mid-July. I wake up 4-6 hours after going to bed, every night, and find it difficult to fall back asleep. No apparent effect on that from varying amounts of small incidental caffeine. Have tried different bedroom temperatures, including some quite cold (high 50’s) with no improvement. Have tried benedryl at bed time, no improvement. Benedryl on waking after 4-6 hours of sleep does let me fall asleep again in about 1/2 hour, but then I don’t wake or want to get out of bed at my normal time of 8 hours after bed time. Plus it’s not something I’d want to do regularly even if it worked, as it merely substitutes benedryl for caffeine.

One thing that’s changed since I established my intentional caffeine policy several years ago is that I now need to be awake at far fewer specific times. It used to be if I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep, I just had to stay awake until the next night regardless of how tired I felt later. That was a big factor in my decision to do intentional caffeine in the mornings as that allowed me to usually get a full 8 hours of sleep at night. With my life situation now it’s usually feasible for me to just stay in bed later in the morning than 8 hours after bed time, or take a nap later in the day if I feel tired. So I may decide to just accept waking after 4-6 hours every night and then get more sleep later in the day.

I went cold turkey from caffeine for a little over a month but I now have fallen back into using it for almost a month. I consider this a failure and an illustative example of lacking control over my life.

The only withdrawal I had was a minor headache for one day after stopping. I actually felt better in some ways for much of the month. My energy levels weren’t higher but they were more steady throughout the day. I think I slept a bit better too.

My relapse was initiated with a cup of coffee to cope minor sleep deprivation (~4 hours sleep that night) and trying to get going that morning. The sleep deprivation was also a result of lack of behavioral control. I stayed up late the night before doing something (forget what…but it was probably reading a book, something online, or watching videos). After the initial relatps, I had a cup of coffee every few days to every other day for a boost in the morning.

Now, I have been back at 4-7 cups of coffee a week for the last two weeks or so. I will try to taper off this time. I’m going to try to avoid caffeine on my more relaxed days or when I got a great night’s sleep. I will also try to sleep better (though I usually do get 8 hours). When I really want caffeine, I’m thinking that I will try to have only smaller servings, like a half-cup or less. I plan to look into Alan Carr’s work and try some strategies from that as well.

At this point, people should beware because I’m caffeinated and not in control of my consumption.

Interesting. For me caffeine has never been about morning energy, so I haven’t experienced the particular problem / temptation that you did.

It’s been many years since I had any voluntary sleep deprivation (staying up later than 8 hours before I need to wake up, by choice). What I do have is things that happen to wake me up or keep me awake and result in sleep deprivation, like:

  • Noise outside or inside my house (storms, police helicopter flying around, freezer alarm if the door was left open, smoke detector battery or EOL chirps, power outage causing UPS to beep)
  • Physical things like being ill, sore, allergic, hot, or needing to shit in the middle of the night
  • Waking early and not being able to go back to sleep

Those are the kind of things that, when I was on intentional morning caffeine, would result in noticably less lost sleep (I’d go back to sleep faster / wouldn’t lie in bed awake until morning).

When these things happen sometimes I try to sleep more in the morning by getting up latter than planned or going back to bed. That approximately never works (caffeine or not). I find that I basically can’t sleep in the morning between my normal wakeup time & lunch.

I also find that unless the deprivation was particularly extreme (like I got 3 hours or less of sleep the whole night) I don’t notice even feeling tired - again, caffeine or not. Like, pretty much whatever happened the night before and whether I drank caffeine or not I’m good till at least lunch. After lunch is when I feel tired if I’m sleep deprived & if circumstances allow I can definitely take afternoon naps. But when circumstances don’t allow for an afternoon nap I am not tempted to use caffeine to solve the tiredness problem because I know it’d just keep me up later that night and cause schedule rolling. So I just tough it out until evening and maybe go to bed a little earlier than usual.

There are lots of people who seem to be not like me in regard to morning energy, probably even the majority though I haven’t done any kind of count or study. I don’t know what causes the difference.

There hasn’t been any significant change in my caffeine intake since my last progress update. Still haven’t had any intentional caffeine or any large incidental sources. Some days I think I have literally zero / can’t identify anything that has any caffeine. 3 days in the last month I had a single cup of decaf tea. About half the days I had some kind of chocolate, usually as a component of ice cream. As far as I know that’s it. Still not sleeping as well at night as I did while on intentional caffeine, but it’s not a significant problem in my current circumstances.

Came across this today: How Many Cups of Coffee You Should Drink Per Day, According to 'Science'

How Many Cups of Coffee You Should Drink Per Day, According to ‘Science’

Two to three cups for longevity, maybe

This comes from a study of older people. I think (but only from anecdotes and vague recollection of some studies) that longevity is highly correlated with working vs. being retired. I’d also guess that coffee drinking is highly correlated with working vs. being retired. My tentative guess would be that working instead of being retired is a good indication you’ll live longer and also that you’ll drink coffee, rather than coffee drinking causing you to live longer.

To be fair, they do mention a couple times in the article that causality has not been established. But my guess is the author and most readers think correlation is almost as good / the best we currently have so OK to basically act as if causation is established.

They highlight a couple of other options:

Three to four cups for other health outcomes

No “maybe” on this one, even though it’s more extreme than the first and there’s more problems discussed in the details.

Four cups or less, to be safe

Zero is not discussed much as an option to seriously consider. It’s only given lip service earlier in the article if you’re not already a coffee drinker:

The author of that analysis said that people should not start drinking coffee because of these results, but that if you already drink coffee, it “can be part of a healthy diet.”

Some updates with the change in season:

I haven’t changed my caffeine policies/consumption since the summer (no intentional or large incidental sources; some days I have some from a small incidental source and some days literally zero).

With the longer nights, I find the waking problem at night is worse than it was during the summer months. It’s now pretty ordinary for me to be awake between 3 and 5 am. I have just adapted to this since it’s no longer disruptive to my work activities. I just get some stuff done while I’m awake and then go back to bed in an hour or two. I think if I still had ex: meetings scheduled at 6am I would have chosen to go back on intentional caffeine to regulate my sleep schedule.

With the cooler weather I found myself wanting warm drinks in the morning more. Herbal or decaf tea is OK but lacks the body and complexity of coffee and I tire of it quickly. I have a couple of problems with decaf coffee: first is that there’s still a significant amount of caffeine in it - more than decaf tea I think. Also there’s an aftertaste in decaf coffee that I don’t care for.

I have tried a few alternatives I like:

Cacao: for example https://criobru.com/
Pros - Low caffeine (though hard to tell exactly how much). Nice chocolatey taste & smell with more complexity and added flavor compatibility than tea.
Cons - Lacks the body and flavor concentration of coffee. Contains theobromine which I don’t know about and could be bad. However I have not noticed any effects on either alertness or sleep cycle from cacao.
Notes - They claim cacao “brews like coffee”. It most assuredly does not. I initially tried to brew it like I used to brew coffee and it was horribly weak. Unlike coffee, cacao is slow extracting and basically impossible to over-extract. I got the best results with a french-press style brewing method and 10 minutes steeping time in the microwave at 10% power to keep the water near boiling. And still, flavor additions are necessary for it not to seem weak.

Chicory: for example https://smile.amazon.com/Worldwide-Botanicals-Substitute-All-Purpose-Caffeine/dp/B071ZTFGFT
Pros - No caffeine (literally zero from what I can tell). Flavor concentration and body very similar to coffee. Seems easy to brew, actually does brew like coffee but more forgiving wrt temperature and duration. Compatible with similar added flavors as coffee.
Cons - Smell is muted and somewhat unpleasant which detracts from the beverage. Has a bit of a bitter aftertaste, but that could be my inexperience with brewing (I need to experiment more).
Notes - Most people talk about combining chicory with coffee rather than having just chicory. I think that might mainly be because the coffee would provide a pleasant smell that chicory lacks; chicory is really not lacking in the flavor department at all. I haven’t tried but am planning to try mixing chicory with cacao and also with decaf coffee to see if that improves the experience by improving the smell while keeping the caffeine level lower than straight decaf coffee would be.

Robust tea preparation: for example decaf spiced chai + cream + vanilla, hazelnut, or maple flavor extract
Pros - Easy to make, pleasant smell and significantly more robust and flavorful than normal “tea”.
Cons - Still has some caffeine (a decaf black tea is the base). Not compatible with as many flavor additives as cacao or chicory.
Notes - I think it’s common to add cream to black tea in UK, Australia, and NZ (which is where I got the idea) but not in America. Not sure why as it improves the flavor compatibility and mouth feel of tea significantly. I hadn’t heard of adding flavor extracts to tea+cream but gave it a try and liked it with some and not others (caramel, mint, and chocolate did not go well). I have heard of brewing a black tea and a mint herbal tea together to get a more complex mint tea but haven’t tried that yet.