47% of people ranging from ages 18 – 24 drink coffee, and this number increases to 64 percent for adults who are 25 or over. During these ages, people tend to be in college. So, these numbers are not surprising considering how stressful and busy college life can be. Late nights are common, and tiredness is the norm.
Coffee, while also being a healthier alternative, can be that boost that keeps students awake without needing to down another can of red-bull or other energy drink. Coffee (more specifically the caffeine it contains) in moderation can positively affect studying.
The caffeine effect
Coffee contains caffeine, a drug which affects the brain. Caffeine will take effect within 15 minutes of consumption. Once caffeine enters the digestive system, it will enter the bloodstream and disperse to parts of the body, including the brain.
After 30-45 minutes, the caffeine will be at its peak before gradually decreasing. The way caffeine invigorates the body is through the adenosine receptors. The brain naturally creates adenosine, a chemical compound that is one of the four bases of nucleic acids. Adenosine binds to adenosine receptors. It slows down the nerve cell activity and causes drowsiness.
To a nerve cell, caffeine looks similar to adenosine. However, when the caffeine attaches to the adenosine receptors, it causes the nerve cells to increase activity.
Fight or flight
The increased nerve cell activity causes the blood vessels to constrict, which results in boosts in neuron firing and energizes the brain’s pituitary gland. This causes the brain to release hormones that increase activity such as adrenaline, making the brain more alert. Kind of like a “fight or flight,” or more accurately, a “study or fail” response.
In summary, It can make you work faster. According to a study by the Medical University Innsbruck in Austria, caffeine can also improve short-term memory by activating the frontal lobes of the brain. Sadly, the effects do not last forever. The effects will disappear in about 6 hours.
The increased activity caused by moderate doses of caffeine (50-300 mg) can help with studying. For college students who just stayed up late studying, it can be an energy booster. For college students who are planning on staying up late studying, it not only increases energy and memory but also increases the ability to concentrate.
So having that cup of coffee will help with learning and retain all the information a student is cramming into their heads. As caffeine takes 15 or fewer minutes to go into effect and will disappear within about 6 hours, one can time their consumption. So, it is possible to get sleep still while also getting caffeine enhanced productive studying.
While it has all these positives, too much coffee and caffeine can be problematic.
Addiction to coffee
Remember how caffeine affects the adenosine receptors. It also affects dopamine receptors. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that triggers pleasure in the brain. It works in the same way that causes addiction to substances such as cocaine and heroin. While it is much weaker than in drugs like cocaine, it can still cause addiction.
The addiction is made worse by the fact that overdosing can cause the body to begin to “resist” the caffeine. The body’s resistance will require the body to drink more and more caffeine to get the same “kick.” Too much caffeine can lead to problems such as headaches, problems sleeping, anxiety, increased heart-rate, to name a few.
If you become addicted and want to try to quit, there is the issue of caffeine withdrawal. Caffeine withdrawal can cause headaches, fatigue, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, depression, low energy, etc. These can be detrimental to college studying. As students cannot afford caffeine withdrawal symptoms, they have to keep drinking caffeine, making the problem worse.
Coffee and sugar
Another issue, if you don’t home make your coffee, is sugar. Coffee at places such as Starbucks can contain excessive amounts of sugar. This can cause problems such as sugar crashes during study sessions, among other things.
Like everything else, caffeine in moderation is fine. It can have positive effects on health and studying. A bonus is that it can decrease the risk of diseases such as diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases that college life (with those late nights and stressful hours) is probably increasing your chances of contracting.