When walking the hallways, you can’t help but notice dark bags under the eyes and some type of energy drink in a Vis girl’s hand. Perhaps she has a coveted Celcius or is trying to spice it up with a Redbull. Regardless of the drink, it seems every Vis girl is just trying to get through the school day. The downside: a crippling caffeine addiction.
Caffeine is like placing a bandaid on a bullet wound. As the most commonly used drug across the world, many are unaware that caffeinated drinks do not provide “added” energy. On the biological level, caffeine works as an antagonist for adenosine receptors by blocking neurotransmitters that prepare our bodies to rest at the end of each day. As a result, we feel more alert but eventually, our bodies metabolize that caffeine, and with it, adenosine floods back into the receptors. In a sense, we are just borrowing energy and masking the underlying issue.
Consuming caffeine in low doses is not dangerous. A perfectly fine fix for Vis girls after pulling an all-nighter to get the latest homework assignment done on time. But when small indulgences turn into dependency, long-term consequences arise. These can include but are not limited to anxiety, difficulty sleeping, irritability, trouble concentrating, and even seizures. For teenagers, scientists recommend consuming no more than 100 mg of caffeine a day. How many Vis girls exceed this recommended amount every day? A Celcius has about 200 mg, a Redbull has 111 mg, and a Starbucks latte has 150 mg.
So how can we fix our dependence on caffeine? A good night’s sleep is one solution. Sleep is vital for our bodies to remain healthy. When we sleep, our bodies follow a four-stage cycle (REM) which allows us to transfer memories into long-term storage, dream, and our physical bodies to recharge. Without enough sleep, our brains are unable to function properly and resulting in impaired cognitive abilities. For teenagers, sleep is even more important as cognitive development and growth occur during the REM cycle. Scientists recommend an average of eight to ten hours a night for teens.
For Vis girls, this feat seems next to impossible with our busy schedules and heavy homework loads. So here are my practical suggestions on how to get a good night’s sleep and reduce our dependence on caffeine as a Vis girl!
Firstly, it is not worth pulling an all-nighter to finish that last homework assignment or cram for a final. Those extra couple of hours doesn’t make a difference. If you don’t know the material then, you won’t know it tomorrow when facing extreme exhaustion too. For homework, most Vis teachers are pretty lenient on due dates if you’re honest and talk to them. So go to bed and get those extra hours asleep.
Second, try going to bed and waking up at the same time throughout the school week. Our bodies follow an internal clock known as the circadian rhythm. When we mess with this clock, the sleep we do get is mediocre at best. So whether you are going to bed at one am or nine pm, try being consistent! After a couple of days, you will feel a big difference!
Third, the timing of caffeine intake is everything! While caffeine enters into your bloodstream in as little as fifteen minutes after consumption, it takes our bodies up to six hours for one-half of the caffeine to be metabolized. Even if you don’t drink caffeine six hours before bed, that remaining caffeine in your system interferes with your ability to sleep and increases the risk of future dependency on caffeine. An easy rule of thumb to follow is to try not to have caffeinated products after lunch to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Finally, try to avoid doing other activities besides sleeping in your bed. As tempting as it is to burrow under blankets and watch the newest Bachelorette episode in bed, this action makes it harder to fall asleep at night. Our bodies rely on cues within our environment for neurotransmitters to be fired indicating us to sleep. When you keep your bed designated only for sleep, it makes it easier for our bodies to fall asleep.
In the new year, maybe try to reduce back on your caffeine intake and develop healthy habits that set you up for success in the future. I challenge each of you to try one of the suggestions above. While these suggestions may not work for everyone, there are countless others out there to try! So let’s make this year about taking care of ourselves by giving our mind and bodies the attention it needs!
“Caffeine (for Teens) – Nemours Kidshealth.” Edited by Mary L. Gavin, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, June 2020, https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/caffeine.html.
“Caffeine.” Caffeine – Alcohol and Drug Foundation, https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/caffeine/.
G;, Nehlig A;Daval JL;Debry. “Caffeine and the Central Nervous System: Mechanisms of Action, Biochemical, Metabolic and Psychostimulant Effects.” Brain Research. Brain Research Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1356551/.
Meredith, Steven E, et al. “Caffeine Use Disorder: A Comprehensive Review and Research Agenda.” Journal of Caffeine Research, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Sept. 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3777290/.
Pacheco, Danielle, and Abhinav Singh. “Why Do We Need Sleep?” Sleep Foundation, 9 Dec. 2021, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/why-do-we-need-sleep.
Pacheco, Danielle, and Nilong Vyas. “Caffeine’s Connection to Sleep Problems.” Sleep Foundation, 22 Jan. 2021, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/caffeine-and-sleep.