Be honest. Are you reading this with a mug of coffee in your hand or on your desk? According to NCA (National Coffee Association), 64% of Americans had at least a cup of coffee in the previous 24 hours. And they don’t often leave it at one. In fact, on average, American coffee drinkers have about 3.1 cups of coffee per day. That’s a lot.
Being one of the most caffeinated nations in the World, we have a strong relationship with our favorite morning brew. For most of us, it isn’t until that first hit of caffeine at the start of the day that we truly feel alive. We not only find the coffee delicious, but we also see it as a natural way to boost our energy, alertness, and memory, fight fatigue and improve focus, mental clarity, and performance.
The evidence in support of these positive effects of coffee on our productivity and awareness is well documented. But is coffee as powerful as we believe it to be? And where do the benefits end and the drawbacks begin?
The answers are bit tricky. It really depends on how much coffee you drink, for how long, the time of the day you drink it, your age, body weight, and even the quality of your sleep. Check out the American Chemical Society’s video illustration of the chemistry behind the effects of caffeine consumption.
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Following are five facts about coffee and productivity to help you better understand the connection:
1. Coffee boosts attention and focus
Coffee doesn’t just wake us up in the morning; it powers us through the day, helps us keep the focus on important assignments, and sort out the most complicated issues of the day. French physiologist Astrid Nehlig, in his research, found that, by increasing psychological arousal, coffee eliminates distractors and that way improves attention during demanding tasks. The caffeine found in coffee also helps increase our sustained attention and focus over an extended period of time.
2. It improves memory and cognitive function
Regular moderate drinking coffee has been shown to improve overall cognitive function as we age. And when combined with glucose it further boosts the efficiency of our brain activity. Almost half of the workers say they feel less productive without their caffeine jolt. After a cup of coffee, we find it easier to remember things in meetings, solve problems faster, and are able to do more work and be productive throughout the day.
Caffeine is also known to improve physical motor function, so if you’re out and doing a manual work, pay a visit to the nearest coffee shop to refuel during an afternoon slump. It will keep you focused and going for longer.
3. Caffeine helps fight tiredness, fatigue and mood
When we’re tired or in a bad mood, we’re far less alert and focused on things we do during the day. The caffeine in coffee helps us fight fatigue by blocking the receptors for adenosine, a compound in the brain that makes us feel drowsy and sleepy.
In addition to this, caffeine increases the production of dopamine in the brain’s pleasure circuits. This feel-good chemical improves our mood and helps stabilize our emotions so we have better judgment and feel positive throughout the day.
Better emotional stability and less tiredness mean more quality work done.
Coffee can also help if you’re having a headache, which can be really frustrating and stressful during important projects or when you need to write an essay on time with a tight deadline. Caffeine reduces the body’s inflammation which brings instant pain relief, as well as boosts the effects of the headache medicine you may be using.
4. It strengthens your willpower and self-control
The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain; and it deteriorates your self-control over time, as well as your willpower. That’s why many successful people try to automate decisions they make over and over again, like choice of food, clothing or media consumption, in order to save mental energy for other important life and business decisions.
They probably drink coffee too, as it turns out, it can also strengthen your self-control and willpower when you’re exhausted, and prevent you from being susceptible to indecent social influences, like a boss asking you to do something deceptive at your job place.
5. Coffee helps you learn new things faster
Many jobs today require us to be constantly up-to-date with relevant information in our field and to never really stop learning. But just like willpower, focus and memory also lessen throughout the day, and a cup of coffee, or two, may be just what you need to get back your full attention.
According to a study by PLOS One, 200 mg of caffeine, – an equivalent of 2 cups of coffee, – helps the brain identify words and phrases faster, as well as improves short-term memory and problem-solving. A brain on coffee works overtime to help you learn faster and retain information better.
But How Much Coffee Is Too Much Coffee?
All mentioned positive effects of caffeine on our productivity only apply when we consume our pick-me-up coffee in moderation. Once it goes over our limits our body becomes over-caffeinated and the negative effects may begin to overcome the benefits. Here are few of these side effects to keep in mind:
Caffeine can cause sleep problems.
Depending on each individual’s tolerance levels, consuming coffee several hours before sleeping is not recommended as it will interfere with the quality of your rest that night. Poor sleep will make you feel even more tired the next day, entering a vicious cycle that either end with exhaustion from sleep deprivation, or with a long quality sleep to completely restore your energy.
It may fuel anxiety and restlessness.
In fact, the American Psychiatric Association added caffeine-related anxiety to their list of disorders. The anxious reaction and nervousness in people result from the increase in adrenaline production stimulated by caffeine. People who are prone to anxiety and panic attacks should especially be conscious about the quantity of coffee they consume.
Coffee is addictive.
Caffeine is a drug, a simulant, and your brain can become physically dependent on it. Keep in mind also that, in time, we build up tolerance to caffeine, resulting in slightly decreased effect, so our brain starts to need more to get the same boost it used to.
If you decide to stop drinking coffee or at least cut on some, prepare to face a period of a significant drop in perceived wellness and productivity. But stay with your decision, as this is only at the beginning; the body will soon adjust.
Be aware of both, the good and the bad sides of coffee, and be moderate in your consumption, keeping a close eye on your stress levels and sleeping habits. The more coffee you drink, the bigger the crash you experience. So limit your caffeine intake in order to sustain stable energy levels throughout your days.
The article is contributed by Terence Murray is a journalist and an editor from London. He loves to meet new people and talks with them about literature, photography, and jazz music.