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One More Page, One More Sip: Does Caffeine Help Students Study?

Young+Man+Studying+at+Night
Young Man Studying at Night

Young Man Studying at Night

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Young Man Studying at Night

Emily Corwin, Editor in Chief

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You have two tests, an essay, and a project due tomorrow.  If you’re like any normal student, you probably put off all studying until the last minute, and are now staying up until the late hours of the night cramming.  What could possibly keep you working this late like the large coffee with two shots of espresso that sits half-empty by your side, ready to be used for another kick of energy?  What you may not be aware of while you’re consuming more and more milligrams of caffeine is that this is causing high blood pressure, an increased amount of acid in the stomach, and headaches.  As much as you think downing a few cans of Red Bull or cups of coffee will help you study through the night, cutting back on the caffeine may be more beneficial to your studying–and your health–than you think.

Many students rely on caffeine to get them through the day, whether it be staying up and cramming for exams or simply having a cup of coffee with them throughout the school day.  Though it comes in many forms, caffeine is consumed more in coffees and espresso drinks amongst young adults.  Anyone who has been in a high school or college has seen someone walking around campus with a bottle of soda or a cup of coffee like it’s an accessory, and it’s no lie that these drinks are popular among students.  

As popular as caffeine is in today’s society, there is, of course, the rule that too much of anything is a bad thing; caffeine can cause insomnia, irregular heartbeat, and anxiety, among other side effects.  Though caffeine does help you in terms of being more alert and relieving headaches, too much of it can lead to health risks in the long run.  

So why are caffeinated beverages so popular among teenagers and young adults?  In addition to the extra kick of energy they provide, these beverages–especially coffee–are cheap and easily accessible, making a quick cup of coffee an easy addition to any student’s morning routine.  Maya Hogan says, “I use it to stay awake and to study.  And because it tastes good.”  McKenzie See-Holbrook agrees, “I drink coffee in the morning because it helps me stay up, and if I have a test, drinking it gives me energy.”  

Caffeine has been around since about 3000 BCE. According to Chinese legend, the Chinese emperor Shennong discovered tea after learning that certain leaves can be boiled into water.  In 1819, Friedlieb Runge isolated pure caffeine and named it “Kaffebase.”  Caffeine is found in more than 60 plants, including coffee beans, tea leaves, and cacao pods that are used to make chocolate.  It is primarily used to improve mood and alertness, and  is the world’s most consumed psychoactive drug.

 Experts say that the safest dosage of caffeine per day for adults is about 400 milligrams (the equivalent of about 4 cups of coffee).  This may be fine for most people, but for those who need more caffeine to get them through their arduous tasks, it will become a problem as more caffeine is consumed.  If you do choose to drink more than the recommended dosage of caffeine, beware: too much caffeine will take a serious toll on your health.  In fact, some people have actually died from consuming too much caffeine.  On April 26th, 2017, a 16-year-old boy collapsed in his classroom at Spring Hill High School in South Carolina.  He died from a caffeine-induced cardiac arrest; he had consumed a latte, a large Diet Mountain Dew, and an energy drink all within the span of two hours.  He showed no undiagnosed heart conditions in his autopsy, nor did he have any drugs or alcohol in his system at the time he collapsed.  

So the question is: does caffeine actually improve study habits?  Actually, it depends on the person; according to Method Test Prep, some people may be able to focus on the tasks at hand, while others get shaky and can’t concentrate.  You also have to take into account how much caffeine you’re consuming during your study session.  If you drink about 3 cups of coffee, the amount of caffeine will help keep you alert, but it also has the possibility of keeping you from concentrating properly.  

Some people don’t even consume caffeine to study; they just use it to keep them alert and motivated throughout the day.  Luke Lindsey admits, “It’s like there’s a plug in my head and when I don’t drink it I feel unplugged.”  As for me, I drink caffeinated beverages whenever I feel tired or if I need energy when I’m preparing for a test or finishing a project.  I try to keep an eye on how much caffeine I’m taking in because I’m well aware of the consequences of too much caffeine.  For example, last year, on the morning of my AP Art History final, I drank a grande white chocolate mocha drink from Starbucks, and then two cups of Dr. Pepper after the test was over.  When I started to go over my notes for my Spanish final, I felt dizzy and nauseous, had a bad headache and I could feel my blood rushing.  Although I do enjoy a soda or a latte every now and then, I know when enough is enough.

As our coffee-drinking habits increase, more and more coffee shops will pop up worldwide.  Large coffee shop companies like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts know where to place locations based on the demographics of the community.  Starbucks’ consumer demographic primarily consists of young adults and adults aged 25-40, and their shops are usually located in cities and more upscale areas.  Have you noticed why there are two Starbucks locations near the Avenues?  It’s because Starbucks knows that students like to study and hang out at the Avenues, and that is why one of the Starbucks stores is located in Barnes and Noble.  

There’s no doubt that coffee has become the primary caffeinated beverage of choice among high school and college students; on-campus coffee shops like Jittery Joe’s at UGA offer special drinks with obscene amounts of espresso shots to customers, guaranteeing that it is the essential beverage for students’ late-night study sessions.  Although this may be a fantastic marketing strategy for coffee shops, it encourages the repeated consumption of high dosages of caffeine and will lead to a larger demographic of people with heart problems or anxiety disorders.  

 As midterms approach and more students are getting prepared for the chaotic second semester, it’s no surprise that coffees and sodas will be a staple for early birds and late-night studiers.  However, it’s a good idea to keep track of how much caffeine you’re taking in; you don’t want to crash and burn in the middle of a study session.  

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