If you sit in class struggling to keep your eyes open, odds are you forgot to drink your usual morning coffee. This highly caffeinated beverage provides most of us with the kick we need to start the day. We grab some in the morning, we grab some in the afternoon, and if we have a lot of homework, then we most definitely grab some in the evening.
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. According to CNET Magazine, the neurons in your brain release neurotransmitters called adenosine, which attach to receptors and make you feel tired as a result. Since the chemical makeup of caffeine is very similar to that of the neurotransmitter that makes you sleepy, caffeine is able to bind to the receptor sites and block the neurotransmitters your brain releases naturally. Caffeine stops your brain from receiving the signal indicating you are tired. In other words, it doesn’t give you energy; it just temporarily suppresses your exhaustion.
Here’s the real question: If the caffeine in coffee makes you feel less tired than you really are, does it have a negative impact on your mental health? If you drink a lot of coffee, it is important to know what kind of chemical changes a drug like caffeine will perform in your brain.
According to the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee, caffeine — depending on how much you ingest — is beneficial to your mental alertness. According to the ISIC website, the European Food Safety Authority claims a cause-and-effect relationship between alertness and the amount of caffeine you would find in an 8-ounce cup of coffee.
Regarding caffeine’s long-term effects, if you continue to drink excessive amounts of coffee, the neurons in your brain will need to adapt to the amount taken in. This is how tolerance levels are built up.
Caffeine is a drug. When the receptors in your brain are continuously blocked by caffeine, the neurons will automatically produce more receptors so that instead of being blocked by the caffeine, they can receive their natural neurotransmitter. Therefore, it will take more and more caffeine to give you the same effect that one cup generated before tolerance increased.
We can all agree coffee is a lifesaver. As college students, some of us need something to embrace to stay alert, and the benefits tend to outweigh the negative consequences. Just make sure coffee is not the only liquid you are consuming and that you are staying hydrated.