You love coffee, we love coffee, but how does it work its magic on our brains? A video by ASAP Science does a great job of explaining what coffee gets up to in our brains, and here’s a run-down of the science. Hopefully, this will help you enjoy your coffee even more!
Primarily, it’s down to the concentration of a chemical called adenosine in the brain. Adenosine accumulates in the brain while we’re awake and binds to receptors that promote sleepiness. The brain’s natural response to this is to clear it out during sleep, and as the concentration of adenosine decreases during sleep, we slowly awaken refreshed! So far so good. Enter: Coffee.
When we drink coffee, the caffeine in it gets on its way to our brain and begins competing with the adenosine. Being structurally similar, they can bind to the same receptors, and that’s how caffeine makes us more awake: by getting in adenosine’s way!
This is great in the short term when we just want a quick lift, but it’s problematic if we overdo it. The brain responds to increased caffeine intake by creating more receptors that can bind with caffeine and adenosine, which means that over time we’ll need more caffeine to get the same lift! Moreover, if we miss our daily caffeine fix, we can actually feel much worse as a result! Bad stuff.
Caffeine also stimulates the productions of adrenaline and dopamine, which helps you to feel alert and happy. It’s the dopamine in coffee that makes you want that second, third, and fourth cup (and fifth…) because it makes you feel good!
And how long does a coffee hit last? Well, according to ASAP Science, caffeine has a half-life (the period of time before the effect is halved) of 6 hours. This means that after 6 hours, the effect of the caffeine will be halved, and halved again 6 hours after that. This goes some way to explaining why you might fancy a coffee after lunch, having had a coffee that morning!
As adrenaline disrupts sleep, we wouldn’t recommend having caffeinated coffee at least hours before going to bed. So if you’re in bed at half 10, you want to be declining delicious coffee after around 4pm if possible. That’s where decaffeinated coffee comes in, of course!
All in all, it’s interesting to understand how coffee affects you to make sure you enjoy it properly! Coffee is super nice, and knowing how to get the best out of it will keep you healthy, happy, and loving your daily brew.