5 Questions About Coffee, Answered by Research

1. Does Coffee Actually Wake You Up?

Although you may often feel like you haven’t woken up until you’ve had your first cup, coffee does not actually wake you up. What caffeine does is block the adenosine—a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep—receptors in your brain. Caffeine has a similar structure to adenosine and therefore it can connect to the same receptors. By blocking them, your brain will not feel like it needs sleep—even though you are not actually getting any rest. In short, coffee does not wake you up, but it does make you feel temporarily less sleepy.

2. Does Coffee Make You Feel Better?

The other effect of caffeine in your brain is to increase dopamine levels. Dopamine is also called the “feel good neurotransmitter,” because it is responsible for many positive reactions in our body, such as pleasure, satisfaction and more. Simple put, dopamine tells your brain that you just received a reward and that what you just experienced is positive and you should get more of it. To answer the question, yes, coffee does make you feel better.

3. Are Coffee Breaks a Productivity Killer?

Despite the fact that coffee breaks take away working time, they are actually very good for productivity. Taking breaks from time to time helps you stay focused while you do work, as it is impossible for your brain to keep focused on one single task for too long. Moreover, taking breaks with colleagues is a good opportunity for networking, which is very important in any work environment. In fact, coffee vending machines have been called “the new water cooler,” and several studies have found that cohesion among coworkers is one of the most important factors of job satisfaction and productivity (in psychology, this is called the “watercooler effect”). Talking to others about your work also improves your creativity and problem solving abilities, which in the end will make you more productive.

4. Does Caffeine Affect Your Memory?

According to a study conducted by researchers from Josh Hopkins University, they found that drinking coffee right after learning something helps you remember what you learned up to 24 hours later. In the study, people were shown a series of images before consuming a certain dose of caffeine. They were then interviewed 24 hours later and asked to recognise the images. Those who drank coffee could better tell whether the images they were looking at were the same as the ones they saw the day before, or if they were just similar.

5. Is Drinking Coffee Bad for Your Health?

Until a couple decades ago, coffee consumption was associated with several negative effects, such as damaging your skin and increasing the risk of cancer. However, older studies did not consider the fact that coffee drinkers were generally more prone to other behaviours, such as smoking and drinking alcohol, which are more closely related to those negative effects. In fact, recent studies have found that drinking coffee can be part of a healthy diet and it can even help reduce the risk of several diseases, including cancer, diabetes, Parkinson and Alzheimer. Moreover, one study found that drinking coffee can help ease pain that is typically associated with desk work, especially in the arms, wrists, neck and back.

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