Last updated on August 2nd, 2017

Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee every day. But what is it about caffeine that keeps us energized and awake?

What makes us tired?

To understand how coffee works, it’s necessary to get a proper insight in how you get tired in the first place. The main culprit of your tiredness is adenosine, a molecule produced in our brains during the day.

In normal conditions, the function of this chemical is to promote sleep and suppress arousal. When a person is awake, the levels of adenosine in the brain rise each hour making you sleepier as the day progresses on.

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How does coffee hinder sleep?

This is where coffee comes in. It’s a well-known fact that one of the main ingredients in coffee is caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant. The thing with caffeine is that this psychoactive substance has a similar molecular structure to adenosine, so it binds itself to the adenosine receptors in our brains.

Once the caffeine is located in this spot, it leaves no more place for adenosine, whose absence helps you stay more awake.

So, it’s an infinite loop?

Once you grasp the basic idea, you start to wonder whether it’s possible to continue with this practice until your brain completely replaces the adenosine with caffeine, helping you stay awake forever.

In short terms, no, this isn’t possible. Instead of your body getting used to the no-sleep conditions, it actually starts developing more adenosine receptors, in order to help the body and the mind fall asleep, as it’s a natural occurring process.

As you continue with your regular coffee intake, your body slowly gets used to the quantity of caffeine in the organism, which later results in an increased resistance towards this substance, meaning you gradually become immune to the effects of caffeine.

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This is also the reason why after a certain period of time, regular coffee drinkers have the need to increase their daily coffee intake, as the previous dose simply doesn’t fulfil the caffeine needs.

Of course, this can later lead to more serious issues and people are known to develop addictions, as caffeine is a psychoactive drug, known to cause addiction. This is also why people who don’t get their daily dosage of coffee can experience symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and high levels of stress, a condition which is commonly known as coffee withdrawal. It’s not that much different from any other form of drug addiction.

The type of coffee matters

Lastly, it’s important to realize that not all coffee has the same effect on our brains and that our coffee habits can greatly influence how we’ll respond to our daily brew. This depends on more than one factors such as the size of the cup, the roast, the brew methods, but also how fast you drink your coffee.

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Also, many people drink their coffee with cream, sugar and similar additives, which can additionally increase the stimulation you receive from your coffee. In hindsight, the more coffee you drink, the more caffeine you bring into your organism, so if you have an important project coming up, better find a coffee machine suitable for your needs.

Feeling a bit woozy? Then it must be time for your daily dose of caffeine. Although it can cause certain side effects if consumed excessively, besides helping you get up in the morning, coffee also helps increase your energy levels, oxygen flow to the brain and muscles and increases your heart rate as well. Just make sure to drink it with caution!

About the author:

Lana Hawkins is a blogger and a coffee lover from Australia. She enjoys her morning cup of coffee, which helps her prepare for the long day ahead. Her favorite type of coffee is latte and she has just recently purchased her first professional coffee maker.

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