Caffeine is the most consumed stimulant in the world and coffee is a common form in which you’d find caffeine. Coffee is often the drink of choice for the stimulant effect it provides.
In Canada one study conducted asked participants when they last drank coffee and 67% said within the last day with a whopping 83% having consumed it at some point during the past year.
Shift workers and Nurses specifically are seldom found without a coffee nearby or lusting after a patient’s coffee when they stroll by with that wonderful aromatic beverage.
But are you drinking it correctly?
Let’s look at how coffee, and more importantly caffeine, interacts to keep you more alert and awake.
Caffeine and Adenosine
First we look at Adenosine. Adenosine is a substance that floats around the body and binds to little receptors which slow down neural (brain/nervous) activity to eventually make you feel sleepy. During the sleep cycle the brain clears out this adenosine and resets the little receptors for the next day.
Caffeine is what’s known as an Adenosine Receptor Antagonist. This means that caffeine binds to the same receptors that adenosine uses, but with the opposite effect. Not only does it block the sleepy adenosine from landing on the receptors, it also stimulates the body to release more adrenaline (the fight-or-flight hormone) and increases dopamine (feel good and addiction hormone) in the brain.
What does all of this mean?
If you want the maximum benefit of the caffeine in coffee it’s best taken earlier in the day BEFORE you feel tired. When you’re starting to feel tired the adenosine in your body has already landed on it’s receptors to make you sleepy and won’t come out until you sleep. Drinking coffee sooner will help block those receptors and let you feel more wakeful for longer.
A little life hack – The coffee nap
There isn’t a ton of science to back this up but if you want to look around online there are many resources on the “coffee nap”. The idea is you quickly take in a cup of coffee then nap or rest in a quiet place with eyes shut for 15-20 minutes. This process lets the brain clear some adenosine off of the receptors which quickly gets replaced with caffeine instead. This exchanges sleepy adenosine for wakeful caffeine.
I’ll leave some resources on this below.
Caffeine in large quantities can play havoc with your system as it affects many hormones (some of which were mentioned earlier) and your brain may begin developing a tolerance (increasing the amount of receptors). As with all things it’s best to drink in moderation and not rely too heavily on it.
Withdrawal from caffeine affects 1 in 2 people who cut it out of their diet and has some nasty symptoms like headaches, lethargy, nausea, and irritability to name a few.
You will not beat a good night’s sleep along with proper hydration for natural health and wakefulness.
If you are looking for energy from caffeine, it’s best taken while you are awake and ready to go.
Be mindful that you can slowly build tolerance as the brain compensates for constant exposure.
Get a good night’s sleep and drink plenty of water and you may just find you don’t need caffeine!