For some Muslims, Ramadan means caffeine withdrawal and headaches

espresso being made in a cup
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Ramadan is coming up quickly on April 12, and for some Muslims, it involves a side concern that some of you may not have known about: Caffeine withdrawal. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims cannot eat or drink from dawn till dusk, meaning those who drink caffeinated beverages like coffee or soda can’t scratch that itch while the sun is out. Coffee isn’t forbidden during Ramadan. So it’s possible to still have it, but if you want to go to bed for a few extra hours of shuteye before work or school, it’s not an ideal beverage to be drinking before dawn. That’s a huge problem for those who rely on an extra boost of caffeine during the day. The Wall Street Journal interviewed several people who have a strategy for dealing with that caffeine abstinence.

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Shabana Mir, a professor of anthropology from Illinois, started weaning herself off coffee in mid-March. Instead of going cold turkey, she swapped her 16-ounce cup of regular coffee for half-decaf, and from there, she cut back her daily consumption little by little. By the end of March, she had brought her total coffee consumption down to eight ounces of decaf. Then she finally switched to black tea with a touch of decaf. During Ramadan, the plan is to have a little green or white tea with her daily pre-dawn breakfast.

The pandemic has also changed people’s daily caffeine consumption. For example, Dr. Kaashif Ahmad, a neonatologist, has doubled his coffee habit during this past year. He divides his time between hospitals in Houston and San Antonio, and has been using caffeine as his method of getting through each day.

“Because of the pandemic we don’t have our normal schedules, so you fall back on things you normally use to cope,” Dr. Ahmad said. “For some people it’s been food, for some people, it’s alcohol and for some people it’s caffeine.” Normally he’d go cold turkey, but since his habit shot up to six or more coffees a day, he needed a real strategy. He’s managed to whittle it down to one cup of coffee a day plus a reduction in his soda habit.

There’s more to discover in this Wall Street Journal piece: there are many creative strategies to deal with coffee abstinence (some people take headache medicine that includes caffeine). Whatever it takes to get by.

Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.

DISCUSSION

I mean, anyone who was serious about their caffeine consumption and has a religious fast at any point already sort of knew this, I imagine?

I had a pre-Yom Kippur regimen for many years before I stopped observing for the most part. It involved a 10-day wean from Rosh Hashannah to a single-espresso on the way to Kol Nidre service on Erev Yom Kippur... wasn’t too bad on the next day, and I’d break fast with a Starbuck madeleine and espresso (around the corner from shul).

I imagine most people have their own solution for some other similar scenario...