The Galleon - Portsmouth's Student Newspaper

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Food & Health

Caffeine: What Difference Does it Make to Our Brains?

We are a generation who rely heavy on caffeine to get us through the day but what damage is it really causing?

Whether sipping on a cup of black tea or slamming down energy drinks, we ask the question: could your caffeine consumption be having negative results on your deadlines? It’s not an uncommon occurrence as deadlines approach for most students to end up relying on caffeine to get through the final push before Christmas. But this trend of chugging caffeine could be more of a hindrance rather than a help to our health and final results.

During deadlines it’s not unusual for students to be over-zealous when it comes to the amount of coffee, tea or energy drinks they consume. Normally the desired effect is to increase your stamina to make it through the long night of essay writing or to pull an all-nighter while cramming for an exam. However, we rarely think about how the amount of caffeine we consume effects our brain, and how it is affecting our academic performance, as well as our ability to stay awake. After all; it’s pointless to stay up all night if you don’t get anything useful done.

“A higher intake of caffeine may decrease your brain’s overall performance.”

Studies into the effect of caffeine on brain activity has yielded surprisingly positive results and has even been proven to enhance memory performance. Unfortunately, the bad news for students is that this positive effect is normally when tedious or repetitive tasks are involved. So for those days when you’re cleaning out your kitchen or organising your notes, a cup of coffee could prove to be incredibly helpful.

The bad news with high caffeine consumption, for the express purpose of hitting deadlines, is that a higher intake may decrease your brain’s overall performance due to over-stimulation; so in an attempt to stay awake with multiple energy drinks, you may be sabotaging yourself.

“The caffeine crash is eminent and will leave you feeling like you have a severe hangover.”

The problem for students is the long lasting effects that the consumption of caffeine leads to. First, the brain begins to numb itself to the effects that it has. This is due to our bodies learning how to break down caffeine more efficiently. When we first begin consuming caffeine, the body takes longer to produce the enzymes necessary to metabolise it, leading to the desired results of long lasting stimulation. But as we continue to consume it more regularly our body adapts, producing the enzymes at a faster rate every time.

The second problem is the crash. While you are busy working on your deadline, you find yourself starting to slow down. The caffeine crash is eminent and will leave you feeling like you have a severe hangover coupled with extreme exhaustion. This is due to the caffeine telling your brain that you have more energy than you actually do, so you expend the amount of energy you think you have. As the caffeine wears off, your brain suddenly realises how little energy it has and will want back all the sleep that you have been depriving it of over the last few days

At the end of the day, it is much better for both your health and you grades to gradually work on your deadlines rather than procrastinating to the point of needing caffeine to complete it. Otherwise you could end up making you brain numb to the kick-start caffeine gives.

But, if you have left it too late to make a deadline without an all-nighter, it is better to use caffeine to your advantage, consuming it sporadically during your work. This way you will avoid your body adapting to it and causing the inevitable crash.

 

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