Relating to my previous post about tiredness and yawning, the constant lectures we endure as students put strenuous work on our mind, some of which is hard to grasp on an inattentive mind. Just as the majority of students, I grab an energy drink with caffeine every now and then before my class, because I need the extra energy boost, and believe that it helps me maintain focus through lectures. I also drink them when I am doing homework, because I firmly believe that it helps increase my productivity. I am not the only one either, as many other students are seen drinking coffee and other caffeine filled energy boosters throughout the day. So, although we continually drink caffeinated beverages, do they actually help us focus on our studies?
What is caffeine? Where can it be found?
Caffeine is a stimulant. Fueling the body’s central nervous system, and increasing the brain’s production of dopamine, which has been accepted to affiliate with the ability to maintain concentration. This can give a person energy, mainly short-term, which is why people use caffeine to jumpstart their day. You can find caffeine in many of the drinks you may see, including energy drinks, soda, and most importantly for a student in the morning, some coffee or tea. It can also be found in pill form and powder form at many supplement stores, as athletes and gym-goers often use the substance.
So, can caffeine help you focus?
When we discuss the effects of caffeine on the ability to focus within our studies, we must look at ending performance and productivity. We examine such through cognitive tests, and physical performances. Within a study conducted by Division of Psychology at Northumbria University, caffeine was used in randomized double-blind and placebo controlled trials. 24 participants consumed caffeine within their beverage, and 24 received the same beverage without caffeine. After a series of tests to assess cognitive skills both before and after ingesting the drink, it was concluded that there were significant differences in tests measures, indicating improvement from the caffeine-given participants. Reaction time increased, memory of various sentences and ability to verify sentences improved, and fatigue was stated to be abridged within the caffeine-given subjects, when compared to the non-caffeine subjects. This is useful information for us as students, showing that energy attained from caffeine may assist us on homework, classwork, and even tests.
Caffeine is often considered necessary given the amount of sleep deprivation students endure. Personally, I know that a maximum of 7 hours of sleep can be considered a good night. I also am an active student, participating in many sports and activities. Additionally, some of us students are athletes, and therefore our studies are not the only thing we need to focus for. We need to maintain focus on our physical activities as well. In another study conducted by U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine 68 U.S. Navy Seals were randomly separated into three groups and given different dosages of caffeine after three days of sleep deprivation. Cognitive and motor skills tests were given both after the sleep deprivation, and after caffeine was administered. The study concluded that caffeine improved their memory and reaction time from both types of tests. However, this isn’t saying that caffeine is the solution to sleep deprivation, as sleep is the only true answer. As active students at such a big, prestigious school (though we are now Navy Seals), can relate to strenuous work that is portrayed in other professions.
Caffeine studies should not suffer from the file-drawer problem, as many experiments have been conducted and examined to show that its effects are supported with significant evidence. Though it can be used to help both physical and mental performance, whether on a test or on the field, caffeine’s stimulation is relatively short term, and has many other side effects, that may outweigh the benefits.
For me as a student studying the effects of caffeine, however, I firmly believe in its benefits. I try to use caffeine when I need to get a lot of work completed in a short amount of time. With the help of caffeine, I can better focus on easier concepts. However, it has a side effect of jitteriness that does not support my focus on either reading or critical thinking. Caffeine is known to be one of the most mass produced substances within our world given that there is significant evidence supporting its ability to help people focus, in addition to other reported benefits.