Why Does Caffeine Wake Us Up?


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Even though I don't like coffee, I know a lot of people who do, and who rely on this drink to get coffee2.jpgthem through the day. I began wondering why coffee has the effects on the body that it does, and I found out some very interesting facts regarding caffeine.

According to HowStuffWorks, we have something called adenosine that is created in our brains. As it binds to adenosine receptors, it slows down our nerve cell activity, which then causes drowsiness. A nerve cell mistakes caffeine for adenosine. Therefore, caffeine binds with the adenosine receptor, but rather than slowing down the cell's activity, the nerve cells speed up. While adenosine opens up blood vessels, allowing for more oxygen intake, caffeine constricts these blood vessels. This is why some people who get frequent headaches take medication that has caffeine in it- the caffeine closes the blood vessels and relieves the headache.

With caffeine now in your system, there is an increase in neuron firing in the brain. The pituitary gland mistakes this activity for an emergency in the body and releases hormones that alert the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands then produce adrenaline, which dilates pupils, opens breathing tubes, increases heart rate, elevates blood pressure, slows down blood flow to the stomach, alerts the liver to release sugar into the blood, in addition to many other effects that we experience when we have caffeine.

In addition to all of this, caffeine also increases dopamine levels. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, puts us in better moods in the same way that an amphetmine, heroin, and cocaine can. Caffeine's effect is much lower than a drug like cocaine, obviously, but works in the same way, and the dopamine in caffeine may even be the cause of caffeine addiction.

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Looking at the effects of caffeine in the short-term, they aren't all that bad. You wake up and you feel good. Long-term, however, avid caffeine users may suffer fatigue and even depression. Scientifically, it makes sense that long-term use can't be good for you- your body is in a permanent state of emergency when caffeine is in the body, which can make you jumpy and moody. It also effects your sleeping habits. Adenosine reception is crucial in a sleep pattern, especially in deep sleep.

coffee1.jpg90% of Americans drink caffeine every day. It is addictive, and if you get into a habit of drinking it everyday, taking a break from it results in a headache, fatigue, and depression.

My advice- drink caffeine only in moderation!




4 Comments

I drink coffee every morning and it's interesting to read about why it has the effect it does. I have noticed that sometimes I'll have a headache if I skip that morning coffee or I'll end up being even more tired than usual. When I was looking on the Livestrong website, I read about how when you suffer from headaches due to caffeine withdrawal, it is actually suggested that you take pain relievers that have caffeine in it (migraine relief pills). Here's where I found a lot of information about caffeine withdrawal: http://www.livestrong.com/article/433552-why-does-quitting-caffeine-give-you-headaches/

Interesting article! The long-term effects sounded somewhat serious. I found a link concerning the pros and cons of drinking coffee to see whether it was more harmful than not. I'm not a coffee drinker at all. I go completely cold turkey, even when I get only 3 hours of sleep. Sometimes it's hard to stay awake during the day with that small amount of sleep, but I feel like it's just not worth it to get addicted to something that could potentially harm me later on in life. However, I treat myself to Starbucks frappuccinos, but rarely, as in once or twice a semester.

I loved reading this, mainly because I'm a huge coffee person. It's a nice way to wake up in the morning, I just never really thought to find out why. I knew about many of the positives, but I didn't know that the long term use could cause depression. I figured that since it increased dopamine it would have the same effect over time. I found this interesting article that says the link between coffee and depression can depend on your sensitivity to caffeine and the reliance on it.

This was really interesting thanks for posting! I've always been aware that there were some not so nice side effects to coffee in the morning however I was not aware it could even aggravate depression, that may explain some trends in America given your statistic that 90% of us drink coffee daily.
I read an article that recorded a study showing men who drank allot of coffee had a lowered susceptibility to prostate cancer. the article is here, its an NPR article.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/05/18/136402267/coffee-lowers-risk-of-deadliest-prostate-cancer

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