Science Has Proven That You Can’t Depend On Caffeine To Make Up For Lost Sleep

Caffeine Sleep Deprivation Study

Between the proliferation of campus coffee shops, flavored energy drinks, or even just a 5-hour energy shot, caffeine has a natural place in every medical student’s heart.

Though widely popular, it is probably not the best idea to dose up on caffeine in order to stay up all night and cram for a big exam. What is common sense to many is now backed up by science, thanks to a new study recently presented in Denver at this year’s SLEEP 2016 conference.

The study aimed to test whether the drug caffeine actually helps sleepy people function in the absence of sleep. Researchers recruited 48 volunteers to participate in this experiment, during which they were only allowed to remain in their beds for five hours per night, for five nights. Each day participants were given two 200 milligram doses of either caffeine or a placebo, while being subjected throughout the day to a series of cognitive tasks.

Researchers relied upon the Stanford Sleepiness Scale and the Maintenance of Wakefulness Test in order to test the “sleepiness” of each participant.  

Those who received caffeine were more awake, alert and capable during the first two days of the experiment compared to the placebo group, but by day three, the benefits of caffeine had completely disappeared.

Researchers found that at a certain threshold, even when participants continued to receive caffeine, there were no improvements in performance.

The team of researchers were led by Tracy Jill Doty, explained the importance of these results:

“These results are important, because caffeine is a stimulant widely used to counteract performance decline following periods of restricted sleep. The data from this study suggests that the same effective daily dose of caffeine is not sufficient to prevent performance decline over multiple days of restricted sleep.” noted Doty.

During the first two days of sleep deprivation, researchers saw that caffeine not only impacted cognitive performance, but also appeared to make users happier following the first two night of limited sleep. But by day three, the effects vanished due to lack of adequate sleep amounts. Furthermore, caffeine users were actually more irritable and agitated than the placebo group.

So it is safe to conclude that preparing to study long before a big exam is the healthiest and most effective means for sound studying. Don’t put it off until two days beforehand.

Joseph Bryant
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