Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A cup of coffee

Do you drink a cup of coffee to get going in the mornings, or one in the afternoon to stay awake? You might be doing the right thing, and Jamie Hale explains why.

On the PsychCentral Blog, the author summarises research on the effects of caffeine. It seems that caffeine stimulates our heart. But its effect goes even further: it is beneficial for our attention and vigilance. Thus, we are better at focusing on a single task, but can also maintain this concentration for a longer period of time. Caffeine also increases our reaction speed, our ability to switch between tasks and monitor conflicts as well as our capability to stop inappropriate responses. Finally, it increases our feeling of well-being. Jamie Hale refers to research by Tad T. BrunyƩ, Caroline R. Mahoney, Harris R. Lieberman, and Holly A. Taylor from Tufts University and by Trayambak Tiwari, Anju L. Singh, and Indramani L. Singh from Banaras Hindu University.

Okay, you might think, so let’s just drink loads and loads of coffee and increase performance. The more, the better. Wrong. According to research results for example reported on the homepage of Mayo Clinic, 200 to 300 milligrams of caffeine, which equals two to four cups of coffee, is an appropriate dose. Drinking more than that, which would be more than 500 or 600 milligrams per day, can cause a lot of undesirable side effects like insomnia, nervousness, or stomach upset. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine and thus are recommended to consume even less.

So a cup of coffee or two or maybe even three or four is a great thing to enhance your focus and improve our vigilance. Drinking more, however, yields the contrary effects of the wanted ones.

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