Caffeine — a help or a Hindrance?
When you’re on deadline with a paper to write or some serious remedial cramming, the first thought is to turn to caffeine to stay awake. For some people, it helps. But is it a good idea?
How it works:
Caffeine is a stimulant. It makes your blood pump faster and keeps you from feeling sleepy so you can get the job done. This is why people have it first thing in the morning.
Where to find it?
Caffeine is everywhere. It’s in colas and coffee and tea, obviously. It’s in my favorite caffeine delivery system, chocolate. You can also find it in drinks like Red Bull. But it also lurks in places you wouldn’t think — some brands of root beer and orange soda, Mountain Dew and, ironically, in Mellow Yellow.
Energy drinks have further complications, because some contain effedrine as well as caffeine.
Caffeine helps in the short run. It gives you a jolt, you can stay awake to follow what the professor says or to finish up a paper. But you don’t know when it will wear off, so you might not be able to get to sleep once the paper is done. And when it does wear off, you will feel as low when it departs as you did high when it first kicked in.
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How much is safe?
For children, Health Canada recommends no more than one caffeine beverage per day.
Pregnant women should have no more than two, and the rest of us should limit ourselves to three.
What if you can’t have it and you have to stay awake?
Some people are allergic to caffeine, others have sensitive stomachs, and people with heart conditions are often forced to limit their intake. If you have to stay awake and you can’t have caffeine, what can you do?
The best thing, of course, is to pace yourself and stay ahead of your course work. Slow but steady really does win the race. But if you can’t, then you need what caffeine supplies: stimulation. You can study with the window open, play music, or study with a friend who can help keep you awake.
Be sure to catch up on lost sleep.
What ever you do, be sure to catch up on your sleep after. The “sleep deficit” that builds up over time can rob you of your joy and affect your academic performance! If you think you may be suffering from sleep deficit now, try this test.
Poor sleep can make you inattentive and slow, forcing more all-nighters, increasing the sleep deficit. It’s a bad cycle, but one you can avoid.
In the long run, it’s better to keep yourself from needing caffeine. But if you need it, a little won’t hurt and can give you the jolt it takes to get the job done.
Modified: January 19th, 2019 January 19th, 2019
Published: November 6th, 2008