View Full Version : Too much caffeine // Too little sleep

10-11-2014, 09:10 PM
I'm trying to tighten up my manuscript right now. One of my characters has a caffeine addiction for several reasons, one of which being the nightmares that plague her when she sleeps. She only sleeps a few hours a night as a result. She's also scared of pitch-black rooms and places. She drinks probably a cup of coffee every 2-3 hours, though sometimes she'll drink an entire pot in one sitting.

I've researched the effects of caffeine and how much she can intake before stuff seriously goes wrong (short term effects), but I was wondering if ya'll could share personal stories of what happens to you when you have too much caffeine and too little sleep.

Like, what side effects? How long can you stay up at a time before hallucinations or other things start happening? Just looking for some personal touches to add to my story. Thanks all!

King Neptune
10-11-2014, 09:24 PM
I developed a tolerance for caffeine. I could have a few cups of coffee and fall asleep anyway.

Some people get shaky, shaking hands, etc. after a while, but most people develop tolerance for caffeine although it can take a few years. Early into a caffeine habit someone may talk a lot, but that usually pre-existed the coffee.

Los Pollos Hermanos
10-11-2014, 09:49 PM
I always have a nice cup of tea before bed - makes me sleep like the dead!

10-11-2014, 10:02 PM
zomg If I drank a cup of coffee every 2-3 hours I would be peeing ALL DAY. But then, I don't drink much caffeine so I don't have much tolerance for it. I can handle an 8oz cup of <caffeinated beverage here> with not much issue now, but any more than that and I become very jittery and my stomach gets quite upset.

My husband once stayed up for 3 days in a row, (for science, I guess?) and IIRC his fan started talking to him at around the 70 hour mark. Or maybe it was his lamp.

10-11-2014, 10:32 PM
If the coffee is too strong, it upsets my stomach. If I drink too much (for me, at under 5 ft. and 105 lbs, it's 3 full mugs of coffee in a row), my brain gets fuzzy-feeling like it's loaded with cobwebs and I have a little trouble getting up from a chair, like I'm uncoordinated. I cannot drink coffee after noontime, not even decaf, or I'll never sleep at night.

If I don't have my coffee fix in the AM, I feel like I can't wait to have that first sip. I get a bit anxious and headachy.

I've been drinking coffee daily for about fifteen years.

Chasing the Horizon
10-11-2014, 10:57 PM
The lack of sleep is likely to play havoc with her moods, since a lot of the chemicals that regulate mood are produced primarily or entirely during sleep. She may get very depressed, or feel flat and dissociated. It's likely she'll experience mood-swings.

That amount of caffeine may elevate her heart rate and blood pressure. Dedicated caffeine addicts rarely get excessively jittery, but we can still get the fast heartbeat when we drink a lot all at once. With that amount of sleep deprivation, the caffeine may significantly worsen the mood swings. For example, she might feel hyper and elevated for an hour or two and then crash into serious depression. She could also find herself feeling agitated and irritated all the time from that combination.

As long as she's still sleeping a few hours a night, she's unlikely to experience psychotic symptoms. I've known several people with PTSD who were unable to sleep more than 2 or 3 hours a night for months on end, and while it was terrible for their mood and energy and general health, they didn't become psychotic.

If she stops sleeping entirely, psychotic symptoms often develop around the 72-hour mark, though she could start having them sooner (say 36-48 hours in) because of how sleep-deprived she was to begin with. Often the psychotic symptoms are preceded by a period of euphoria.

10-11-2014, 11:17 PM
Face and hands feel tingly.

Start feeling like your chest is going to explode.

Kind of comfortably numb yet manic at the same time.

Los Pollos Hermanos
10-11-2014, 11:27 PM
If I go for more than 12-15 hours without a cup of tea I get a headache, which makes me really grumpy. I didn't set out to become a caffeine addict, but I can chain-drink tea because I absolutely love the stuff.

I did a 14 hour workday on Thursday (an annual one-off) and I was on the coffee on Friday morning as the tea just wasn't cutting it. It took three HUGE cups (those Sports Direct ones for the benefit of the UK types out there) to make the "looking through a haze" thing go away. I don't particularly like coffee, but needs must. Half a dozen custard cream biccies also helped.


10-11-2014, 11:43 PM
I'm a pretty serious caffeine addict. But, like most things you build up a tolerance and resistance over time. I'm 5'5" and about 160lbs. I can easily drink 2litres of diet coke and a couple cups of coffee and sleep fine at night. But that is because I drink it every day. The only thing that prevents me from sleeping anymore is RedBull / other high caffeine energy drinks. But even then, I have to drink 3+ in a row to really feel like I can't sleep.

If it gets to 10am, and I haven't had caffeine, I feel sluggish and ready to crawl back in bed. By noon, I'll have a raging headache.

10-11-2014, 11:57 PM
I don't drink coffee. But when I'm sleep-deprived I act like I'm drunk. It's a bit unnerving tbh. Laughing at unfunny things, stumbling around, repeating sentences for no good reason, and at the same time watching myself doing all this stuff, and thinking, WTF? My skin feels dry and tight and everything has a slightly unreal quality. I will get angry and/or burst into tears really easily.

I try not to get sleep-deprived.

10-12-2014, 12:10 AM
I've purposely avoided becoming too accustomed to caffeine, so when I do need it, it actually has the intended effect.

When I do need it, I tend to overdo it a little, and I almost always need it when I'm already rather sleep-deprived.

An interesting sidenote: when I tried ketamine in high school, during the week that followed, taking caffeine pills seemed to induce some after-effects of the ketamine.

Many of the effects of sleep deprivation are very similar to drunkenness.

But the first way I'd describe too much caffeine is definitely "tingly". Your hands are so light and numb and kind of move on their own.

Mmm, I need a cigarette now.

10-12-2014, 01:54 AM
Keep in mind that not everyone metabolises caffeine the same way. My half-sister can drink cup after cup of coffee all day, with no effect and no impact on her sleep.

By my second cup (though I like it strong!) I can start feeling quite jittery.However, I'm tired enough, I'll still fall asleep regardless of whether I consume something with caffeine or not.

L M Ashton
10-12-2014, 03:44 AM
There's a huge variance in how caffeine affects people. I don't drink any caffeinated beverages - I get massive digestive problems. My father, though, used to drink 32+ cups of coffee a day for decades. No digestive problems. No shakes. No hyper whatever. He also only slept 4 or 5 hours a night, but probably not because of the coffee - it's just the way his body was.

10-12-2014, 04:58 AM
I've never drank coffee to excess, so I'm not sure what sort of effect it would have on me, but I just wanted to say that when I'm sleep deprived I get the most awful waves of vertigo.

10-12-2014, 07:28 AM
I drink tea nonstop. It has absolutely no effect on me.

But I rarely drink coffee, and drinking only half a cup will make my heart race and I feel jittery. It scares me.

10-12-2014, 08:06 AM
Thanks for all the responses so far. It's amazing how different the effects are for each person.

Personally, I'm a soda drinker who enjoys the occasional energy drink. I hate coffee. It's difficult writing the POV of someone who LOVES coffee when even tiramisu makes me gag.

Again, much appreciated. Its good to know that if have my character with a high tolerance that the physical side effects aren't that noticeable.

10-12-2014, 09:30 AM
Again, much appreciated. Its good to know that if have my character with a high tolerance that the physical side effects aren't that noticeable.

Keep in mind that's mostly predicated on actually getting some sleep, too.

Though "a few hours a night" is quite good compared to what I would consider being sleep deprived.

10-12-2014, 09:50 AM
Keep in mind that's mostly predicated on actually getting some sleep, too.

Though "a few hours a night" is quite good compared to what I would consider being sleep deprived.

I'm going to alternate between her being completely sleep-deprived and her sleeping a few hours. I'll make sure to ramp up the side effects when she starts going more than a day or two without sleep.

10-12-2014, 11:31 AM
I did once have a weekend (64 hours) of no sleep due to caffeine, and there were no effects after the first few hours. Not even the usual lack of sleep stuff.

It was actually Jolt (& chocolate) after a bit too much vodka. I was at a movie marathon and it felt like my brain processing was lagging behind behind what I saw/heard, so what was on the screen didn't make sense until after it had gone. That was weird. I got home mid-morning and didn't go to bed because I had to get up soon after, and then didn't feel like sleeping again until late Sunday night. Nothing out of the ordinary at all. (Mild disappointment there.)

But, at the time I wasn't used to caffeinated soft drinks, and they do seem to affect me in obvious ways. Whereas I can drink tea all day or not at all with no noticeable effects.

Quentin Nokov
10-12-2014, 09:02 PM
Well, I don't drink coffee, but one time my brother (while he worked at a greenhouse) fainted or almost fainted because he drank nothing but coffee and then got dehydrated at the greenhouse. He felt like he'd throw up. My mom had to pick him up from work. Basically he felt like utter crap.

One time his friend was awake for about 3 days straight. When my brother and his friend were driving at night, his friend who had been awake for the 3 days told him to pull over. He staggered out of the car and threw up the pizza he had just eaten.

Los Pollos Hermanos
10-12-2014, 10:34 PM
Just remembered drinking a whole cafetière of full-strength coffee circa age 14 because I wanted to pull a school holidays all-nighter TV-watching binge. By ~2.30am I was lying on my bed feeling like crap - like I was going to throw up, I was shaking and just felt absolutely vile. I eventually howled for my mum, who came in, realised what I'd done, told me to deal with it and that she had no sympathy, and walked out. The whole experience put me off coffee - until my university days!!

I then had two stinking colds back-to-back about ten years ago, which made me go off coffee and embrace my budding tea habit.

Karen Junker
10-13-2014, 01:36 AM
My relationship with caffiene has changed over the years. I'm now over 60 and I can drink 2-3 cups of coffee and I'll be okay. But if I have a Pepsi 10? I'm jittery and manic for hours.

When I was 14-18, I would boil a large pot of water with teabags in it and leave it on the stove on low all night -- I would drink a cup every half hour or so all night and then sleep for an hour before school.

My friend who is a clinical psychologist says there's no such thing as sleep psychosis. He got his degree somewhere like Thunder Bay University or someplace, though.

10-13-2014, 02:02 AM
Mountain Dew has more caffeine than coffee or tea. Used to have a 2 pack a day habit. That's two twelve packs. If I didn't have one within 15 minutes of waking up, I had a debilitating headache and couldn't move. Go without for 24 hours and I'd be curled up in a fetal position, sweating profusely and shaking.

Quit cold turkey. Four days of absolute hell that I remember little or nothing about. Heroin is easier to kick. I woke up in the closet, wrapped in a blanket soaked with sweat and urine. But I felt good and got better every day after.

The only good thing is that the office collected cans for the nickle deposit and my cans paid for a new microwave. And a toaster oven. And a mini-fridge. After I quit, they replaced three of the four columns of Mountain Dew in the vending machine with other items, they didn't seem to sell that much any more. :)


10-13-2014, 12:31 PM
I remember driving home from work after pulling a 48 hours straight when we lost a datacentre once, I kept seeing things out of the corner of my eye that weren't there. Luckily it was about 5am and there was next to no traffic or I'm not sure I'd have made it in one piece.

10-18-2014, 07:56 AM
When my son was born, by the time we went home from the hospital, I had been awake for 72 hours. By that point, I was hallucinating hearing babies cry. Totally bizarre to be in my empty house, hear a baby crying, look at my son, and see him peacefully sleeping. Fortunately, a three hour nap took care of the hallucinations.

When I'm overcaffeinated, I have this horrible buzzing feeling- kind of like when you stand under a power line and hear that buzzing noise, except instead of hearing it, I feel it throughout my entire body. I'm exhausted, but I can't sleep, and oftentimes, I'm mentally desperate to get some sleep.

10-18-2014, 06:11 PM
When I have too much caffeine in my system, I end up in a state of semi-sleep for the entire night. If you hooked up nodes to my brain it would probably show that I am technically asleep, but I feel semi-conscious--enough that I am aware, and convinced that I am not sleeping. Does that make sense? That awareness then causes feelings of frustration and anxiety because I know the clock is ticking and soon I'm going to have to face the day on very little sleep.

Also, my left eyeball vibrates for a second, every few minutes. I presume the muscle is twitching but it feels like it's vibrating. Needless to say I try to stop drinking coffee by mid-morning and switch over to water and tea to avoid these effects.

10-19-2014, 07:49 AM
My husband says the one time he drank caffeine to keep himself awake, he lost the ability to understand street signs on the drive home. He doesn't do it anymore, lol.