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Caffeine is a natural substance mostly used in food and beverages. It is a natural stimulant found in cocoa products, coffee, kola nuts, and cacao plants. Caffeine is also used in medications and in energy drinks. It stimulates the brain and central nervous system, helping you stay alert and preventing the onset of tiredness.

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Coffee was discovered many years ago by an Ethiopian shepherd who noticed the extra energy it gave his goats. With so many variations in caffeinated products, it is difficult to know the quantity of caffeine in a particular product, especially in tea and coffee.

Recently, approximately 80% of the world’s population consume caffeinated drinks with the percentage gradually increasing every day. Caffeine affects mainly the brain. Once consumed, it is absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream and then travels to the liver and is broken down into different compounds that can affect the function of various organs.

Effects of Caffeine on the Brain

Caffeine’s main effect is on the brain, it blocks the effects of adenosine, which is a neurotransmitter that relaxes the brain and makes you feel tired. Normally adenosine increases the ability for you to get tired and causes you to want to get some sleep. Caffeine makes you stay awake by connecting to adenosine receptors in the brain without activating them, thereby blocking the effects of adenosine, leading to reduced tiredness. It also increases the blood adrenaline level and increases the brain activity of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. These combine and stimulate the brain to a state of arousal, alertness, and focus.

The psychoactive drug interferes with circadian melatonin rhythms, delaying sleep if taken close to bedtime. The circadian rhythms are the sleep cycle that works 24- hours. Hence, the interference of caffeine reduces the function of the circadian rhythms.

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Other Effects of Caffeine

Caffeine reduces sleep by more than 1hour. Research proves that 400mg of caffeine taken even before bedtime disrupts sleep and this degree of sleep loss if encountered for several nights may cause negative effects on daytime function. Caffeine reduces sleep time, efficiency, and satisfaction level. It makes it difficult for you to fall asleep and it delays the timing of your body clock. Even when consumed earlier, caffeine can reduce the amount of deep sleep that makes you refreshed. Consuming caffeine six hours before bedtime reduces total sleep time by 1 hour. It takes older people a long time before their body processes caffeine and regular intake of caffeine causes complications for pregnant women.

Overuse of caffeine can cause insomnia symptoms. Consuming caffeine to keep you awake at night can cause sleeplessness, anxiety, increase heart rate, increased breathing rate, muscle tremors, nausea, low energy levels, and bad moods.

The disruptive effects of regular caffeine use on sleep can create a vicious cycle. Caffeine can make people sleepy if they have abstained from the intake of caffeine, which is why regular caffeine users may feel sleepy during the day when they have slept through the night without caffeine.

In conclusion, it is recommended that one should only consume around 400mg of caffeinated products daily. You should check the caffeine content of your drinks before consumption. The recommended intake time for caffeine is a minimum of six hours before bedtime.

If you are struggling with headaches during working time, this could be a sign of excess caffeine intake. You can improve your sleep by sleeping in a cool, quiet, and comfortable environment. Give your body a peaceful and relaxing place to rest. Maintain the recommended caffeine intake per day, take moderate alcohol, and exercise regularly.

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This article was first published on 10th April 2022


Ohia, Ernest Chigaemezu is a writer, editor, and grade teacher based in Jos, Nigeria.

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