Coffee only wakes you up if you rarely drink it

What is the ideal way to consume coffee?

28-Nov-2023
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We probably mainly imagine that drinking coffee every day makes us more alert. This is the conclusion reached by scientific studies on the effects of caffeine. Caffeine has a proven waking effect, especially when we have slept too little or have been awake for a very long time. In this case, caffeinated drinks such as coffee or tea support the feeling of alertness. When we are well-rested and awake, caffeine does not make us more alert than we already are. However, other study results suggest that caffeine can do much more than wake us up.

Our impression that coffee helps us wake up in the morning comes from the fact that most people are so-called chronic caffeine consumers. This means that they consume coffee every day, whether at different times or just once. Our brain gets used to the active ingredient. A mini withdrawal can then set in at night. And this makes us tired. Drinking coffee then has a positive effect on people who drink coffee every day.
Other effects occur with acute consumption. "For controlled studies, people are usually asked to abstain from drinking coffee for one to two weeks in order to make them sensitive to this psychoactive substance again. Prof. Hans-Peter Landolt's group from the Institute of Pharmacology at the University of Zurich was able to show that even four days of abstinence is enough to induce reduced deep sleep the following night with a morning caffeine intake," explains Dr. Carolin Reichert, Deputy Head of the Center for Chronobiology at the University Psychiatric Clinics Basel.

This explains why, on the one hand, we react more strongly to caffeine the less often we consume it. On the other hand, there are genetic differences in how sensitively we react to caffeine, but other factors are also decisive for absorption, for example whether someone smokes.

So what is the ideal way to consume coffee?

"If we want coffee and the like to have a wakeful effect, then we must not consume it chronically," Carolin Reichert explains, "coffee is only a wakeful stimulant if our receptors react sensitively to it, and this requires periods of abstinence." However, the chronobiologist points out that we should not only look at the wakefulness effect: "In some studies, there are indications that regular caffeine consumption could protect against neurodegenerative diseases. Some studies have also shown that regular consumption can be beneficial in the field of psychiatry, for example in affective disorders." With this knowledge, everyone can derive individual benefits from both regular and occasional consumption of caffeine.

And let's not forget the culturally evolved positive idea that we humans associate with drinking coffee. The scientist knows: "Caffeine has an influence on the dopamine system. It could give us a feeling of reward and even make us more motivated to tackle things afterwards."

A recent publication by scientists from Seattle and Berkely in the USA also shows how topical the subject of coffee and sleep is, demonstrating that sleep time can be reduced by 10 minutes per cup of coffee during the day/evening, reports Congress Co. President Prof. Ingo Fietze.

PD Dr. Eva Elmenhorst, Dr. Carolin Reichert, Prof. Hans-Peter Landolt and Prof. David Elmenhorst will therefore address the question of how caffeine works in many different ways in a scientific symposium entitled "Caffeine: blessing or curse - mechanisms of caffeine effects on sleep, circadian rhythm and performance" at the 31st Annual Meeting of the German Society for Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine (DGSM), which will take place in Berlin from December 7 to 9, 2023.

Note: This article has been translated using a computer system without human intervention. LUMITOS offers these automatic translations to present a wider range of current news. Since this article has been translated with automatic translation, it is possible that it contains errors in vocabulary, syntax or grammar. The original article in German can be found here.

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