Caffeine may keep you awake, but it won’t help you get through the day

Brittany A. Roston - May 26, 2021, 5:39pm CDT
Caffeine may keep you awake, but it won’t help you get through the day

A new study on humanity’s favorite stimulant has found that while caffeine may help you stay awake after a night of sleep deprivation, it won’t necessarily help you get through the day’s tasks. The findings are based on around 275 participants who were deprived of sleep, given caffeine, and then tasked with completing a couple of tests.

The new research comes from Michigan State University’s Sleep and Learning Lab, where experts evaluated whether caffeine can help someone overcome the cognitive impact of sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case, with participants struggling to perform the more challenging of the two tasks they were given.

Though caffeine helped the participants finish a simple task that required their attention, they ultimately struggled to perform both, particularly the ‘placekeeping’ task that required finishing challenges in a certain order without mixing anything up. Caffeine didn’t offer any sort of notable performance boost when it came to the greater challenge.

The findings indicate that while caffeine can help you stay awake and perform simple things while sleep-deprived, it likely isn’t protecting you from making the sort of mistakes that are common when someone doesn’t get enough hours of sleep. This can be particularly harmful in cases where someone must be careful about completing tasks, such as in the medical field.

The study’s lead researcher Kimberly Fenn explained:

If we had found that caffeine significantly reduced procedural errors under conditions of sleep deprivation, this would have broad implications for individuals who must perform high stakes procedures with insufficient sleep, like surgeons, pilots and police officers. Instead, our findings underscore the importance of prioritizing sleep.


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