Study shows coffee doesn’t always increase alertness

For decades it was widely believed that coffee is a stimulant that keeps you awake at night. But this theory was largely been based on common sense, rather than scientific research. Now scientists have set out to discover whether the opposite is actually true, and regular coffee drinking can make you sleepy. Their research findings so far demonstrate compelling evidence that coffee does not keep people awake at all.

…when people stop using coffee, morning sleepiness doesn’t get worse, it goes away.

Quentin Regestein, Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital Sleep Clinic in Boston has considered the possibility that coffee makes you sleepy. In an interview with Chicago Reader, he says, “A pharmacologist here, Avram Goldstein, did a survey in a married students’ dormitory, asking questions about general life-styles, and he found that people who drank coffee generally described themselves as sleepy in the mornings. That could be why they drink coffee, of course, but in fact what we find here is that when people stop using coffee, morning sleepiness doesn’t get worse, it goes away. Ordinarily, people who give up coffee say that the clear stimulus they used to feel for an hour, hour and a half in the morning is no longer there, but that the average productivity of their day improves.”

The Study

So based on this survey, if coffee makes respondents feel sleepy in the mornings, does it actually keep people awake at night? Well, research by Rogers. P. J of Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol and scientists from several leading universities set out to discover whether caffeine actually does make users more alert.

They took blood samples from 379 volunteers with varying degrees of coffee consumption, ranging from zero to high levels. The volunteers were asked to avoid caffeine totally for 16 hours. Once the sixteen hours was over some of the volunteers were given a caffeine pill and other were given a placebo. MAPSS (Mood, Alertness and Physical Sensations Scales) were then used to assess the participants.

The results

The results show that caffeine did not increase the alertness of any of the participants. However those who consumed higher levels of coffee and only received the placebo felt less alert and experienced severe headaches. Those who drank less coffee and received the caffeine pills experienced headaches, but did not feel more alert. And those who rarely consumed coffee felt more anxious after taking the caffeine pills.

…no net benefit for alertness is gained, as caffeine abstinence reduces alertness and consumption merely returns it to baseline.

According to Rogers et al, the results suggest that, “With frequent consumption, substantial tolerance develops to the anxiogenic effect of caffeine, even in genetically susceptible individuals, but no net benefit for alertness is gained, as caffeine abstinence reduces alertness and consumption merely returns it to baseline.”

So, although further research is required, the study suggests that coffee does not cause drinkers to become more alert and stay awake at night. Also, coffee consumed during the day has a short term effect and actually makes coffee drinkers feel more lethargic throughout the day than they do when they consume no coffee at all.

The alternatives to coffee

For those suffering from sleepless nights and drowsy days, a highly overlooked root cause of the issue is their mattress. Since technology has increased pressure to perform and since working hours become longer and longer, you’ll agree that traditional bedding doesn’t meet the comfort needs required to sustain a high-activity day.

…traditional bedding doesn’t meet the comfort needs required to sustain a high-activity day.

It’s advisable to consider the benefits of a memory foam mattress (such as one sold by Amerisleep). The quality of sleep that comes along with a better mattress reduces the need to drink coffee and energy drinks to stay awake during the day.

PARTICIPATE: Why do you depend on coffee to wake up in the morning?

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