Caffeine Dreams

I’ve had a long-standing love-hate affair with caffeine.

When I began university, many years ago, I decided to start drinking coffee. That’s what grown-ups do. But my mother had terrible problems with stomach ulcers so, when I began to get stomach pains, I feared that I might have inherited her constitution and quit drinking it.

This makes me almost the only adult that I know who never drinks coffee. Even my mother, who almost bled to death from a perforated ulcer, still drinks it every day.

Instead, I got my caffeine from Pepsi, Coke, and chocolate. Lots of caffeine from lots of colas and chocolate. If you drink twenty-six ounces of Pepsi at a sitting, you’re getting similar amounts of caffeine as you’d get from a cup of coffee. And a whack more sugar. Hard on the teeth, but a great buzz.

When I was a post-doctoral fellow a few years later, my supervisor commented that she was suffering from insomnia and went to her doctor. The doctor’s first question was whether she drank coffee. The penny dropped. She stopped consuming any caffeine – coffee, tea, colas, chocolate – and began sleeping well.

I, too, was having trouble sleeping so I did the same. I, too, began enjoying nights of blissful slumber.

I soon lost all tolerance for caffeine. A couple of chocolates was enough to give me a bad night. This was not merely a placebo effect. I inadvertently gave myself a blind test. I woke up one morning after a bad night and my first thought was, “I’ve had caffeine somewhere.” At that time I was drinking non-caffeinated soda exclusively. The day before, I had downed a bottle of orange Slice – not a brand that I normally drank. I pulled the bottle out of the garbage and looked at the label. Sure enough, the ingredients included caffeine.

It’s not easy to avoid all caffeine in this society.

After a few years, I missed the caffeine buzz and decided that maintaining a little tolerance was useful. I began eating healthy amounts of chocolate and drinking the occasional Pepsi. I restricted my colas to Fridays on the theory that it didn’t matter if I didn’t sleep on Friday night; I could sleep in on Saturday morning.

I also use caffeine strategically to jack myself up for important events like public lectures and to keep myself awake on long-distance drives. Because I keep my tolerance low, it does not take much to have a relatively strong effect on me.

From years of casual observation of the impact of caffeine on myself and discussing it with other people, I’ve come to four broad conclusions:

First, caffeine is a much more powerful drug than most people realize. Because the average person maintains a high tolerance by consuming a constant amount of coffee every day, he greatly underestimates the effect of the drug on himself.

Second, a dose of caffeine has effects that last at least forty-eight hours. People believe that caffeine only affects them for a few hours because they pay attention only to the initial effects – such as a pounding heart and heightened attention. They pay less attention to minor sleep disruptions. Because they typically re-dose themselves within twenty-four hours, they mask longer-term effects, such as sleep disruption on the second night.

Third, the effect of caffeine is cumulative over several days. If I drink a can of Pepsi one morning, it has little effect on my sleep that night. If I drink a can on the second morning in a row, I’ll be restless that night. If I drink a can on the third morning in a row, I’ll be hard pressed to get six hours sleep that night and will be awake for at least a half hour in the middle.

Fourth, caffeine withdrawal is a subtle malady. Many people realize that headaches are likely but discount the foggy head that is a more pernicious symptom of withdrawal. There is evidence that the boost in attention and activity that follows a cup of coffee in the morning is a result only of removing the fogginess due to caffeine withdrawal. People who have a caffeine habit think that they are preforming above average after drinking their habitual morning cup of coffee. They are wrong. In fact, they’re merely bringing themselves up to the normal level that they would already be at if they never used caffeine.

The most interesting effect of caffeine addiction is the denial of its most obvious effects by addicts. I have a friend who drinks coffee constantly all day long. She complains that she can sleep only about four hours a night. When I point out the obvious correlation, she swears that coffee doesn’t have any affect on her sleep. And she has no intention of ever stopping her caffeine intake, even for a few days to test the theory. I think she is afraid that she will discover that her coffee consumption really is causing her insomnia and have to do something about it.

She is not alone in her denial of the effect of caffeine on her sleep patterns. All the time, people tell me that they only drink coffee in the morning so that’s not what’s causing them to stay awake at night. It has to be something else. Anything else.

It’s the coffee. Admit the truth. You’d rather drink that coffee than get a good night’s sleep.

Me, too. I think I’ll have a Pepsi and a seventy per cent chocolate bar tomorrow morning.

Yours, Ashley


About Ashley Zacharias

I'm a post-modern woman who lives a vanilla life and dreams about kinky adventure. I write BDSM pornography but have no interest in acting out my fantasies in real life. Find my work on and
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5 Responses to Caffeine Dreams

  1. Curtis says:

    I’m also a non-coffee drinker, in my case because I hate the taste. In addition, it’s so fussy to fix.

    I had a friend who used a Mr. Coffee to brew tea, and when I traveled to visit her we’d each have a couple of cups a day (Lipton or Earl Grey). With three spoons of sugar and a lot of milk, enough of the acid was neutralized to make it drinkable.

    I do love chocolate, but only of the ‘milk’ variety; dark chocolate is too bitter for me, and white… doesn’t taste like chocolate.

    So, I get my caffeine from Coca Cola products — currently Zero, because I really don’t need the calories, though my two favorites were Vanilla (only available for a few months) and Classic in a glass bottle. It interests me how the container alters the taste. From a can it tastes stronger and more acidic and plastic containers are sort of meh, but drunk stright from a glass bottle, especially cooled to a little below 32 degrees, so that it turns slushy when you open, it tastes… clean — biting.

    I’m down to only one to three bottles a week now — one in winter while I’m ‘retired’ and three in the summer when I work outdoors, but twenty-plus years ago I was going through five bottles a day. I learned two things from this: First, that drinking lots of Coke puts me to sleep. I’d down one just before bed or taking a nap, and I’d go out like a light.

    The second thing I learned when I stopped. It was getting too expensive, and I thought that I could lose weight by cutting out the roughly thousand liquid calories a day, but boy was I wrong. I gained twenty pounds in the following two months, and it’s never really come off since.

    How drugs (and calories) work should be simple science and easily predictable, but they aren’t. Everyone reacts differently, and that’s the second thing I learned.

    • I know what you mean about cans and plastic altering the taste of a beverage. I find aluminum cans especially annoying and avoid them when I can. When I can’t, I decant them into a glass before drinking.

      I’ve got a few precious glass bottles of Coca Cola from Mexico. Costco in San Diego sells them by the case. But it’s not the glass that’s the attraction. It’s that Mexican Coke is made with real sugar, not high fructose corn syrup. The glass bottles are a bonus. Next time I drive to San Diego, I’m going to bring back more than one case of the stuff. At one bottle a week, three cases would be more than enough for the year.

  2. jerry says:

    Wowzers it’s been a long time since i conversed with you. I have recently gave up caffeine. No you did not inspire me (sorry) but the doctor due to elevated blood pressure. Now i use to drink at least a pot of coffee a day. Not to mention the soda and everything else. Now i have always said that if i was a female on birth control i would have a hell of a lot of kids. I have a hard time remembering to take meds. So the alternative was some serious life style changes.

    I have been caffeine free for about 2 months now. A difference? yes….I go to sleep a lot easier now. When i have a cup of coffee i feel the caffeine rush. Now has it affected my blood pressure…..Not in the slightest.

    Now i am not saying that caffeine was my problem. Since my accident i have been pretty sedentary. My main job is to watch tv and eat. Yes i have put on 30 pounds since the accident
    which was in november 09. So all in all i am not too bad.

    So i have also started going to the gym to do cardio and to swim. But on a lighter note yes you can kick the caffeine.

    And just FYI i would love to set down and have a beer with you to just chat. Your thoughts and rants are just fascinating to me.

    And just one more thought….There hasn’t been anything new on the BDSM scene in a while. You didn’t go vanilla on me did you?

    • I’m sorry to hear about your accident (whatever it was). Hope you are healing well (from whatever injuries you may have suffered).

      My fantasies remain far from vanilla. I recently submitted a new story to BDSMLibrary, but they haven’t updated the stories since 11 June. I assume that a moderator is on vacation. But it should be available soon. It’s called, “The Joy of Contrition”. It’s 5,000 words about “six of the best” with a cane. Rather a lot of words to describe a single sado-masochistic act, so I hope that readers don’t find it too boring. If you read it, you can see how I was playing games with the point of view. I’m looking forward to hearing what people think of it.

      Yours, Ashley

  3. Your observations on caffeine are all in keeping with my own experience as well.I did notice in one of your non-porn fiction stories that you referred to coke being sweeter than Pepsi. I thought that you might not be drinking soda much. I stopped drinking soda while in college and it made a huge functional difference. Stopped on a Friday morning, had a light Friday course load, and felt good by Monday. If I have a caffeinated cola, It alters my sleep for two days and it is highly disruptive to sleep onset.

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