We Hate to Say It but Coffee Isn’t a Cure-All When You’re Sleep Deprived
If you’re a coffee-lover, chances are you look forward to your cup of coffee every single morning — we definitely do! Not only does coffee taste delicious but it often can act as a slow and enjoyable ritual that punctuates busy mornings. Most of all, we love how coffee can give you a little pep in your step thanks to the caffeine component.
It’s fair to say we’ve probably all used coffee to inject some energy into our system when you’re feeling tired or lacklustre. And, while caffeine can provide you with some temporary energy, it can only do so much, according to new research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition.
In the study, a group of participants were subjected to a night of sleep deprivation. Following this, the group was asked to compete in a reaction time test, which according to Healthline, required the participants to complete a series of tasks in a specific order without skipping or repeating any steps.
During these tests, the researchers noted that, in some instances, caffeine did prove to be helpful but it could only do so much. Not even caffeine is strong enough to prevent sleep deprived-induced errors “We found that sleep deprivation impaired performance on both types of tasks and that having caffeine helped people successfully achieve the easier task,” said associate professor in the department of psychology at Michigan State University, Kimberly Fenn, PhD.
“Caffeine may be able to help you stay awake and pay attention to a task, but it does not help to prevent errors,” she said. “We are interested in procedural errors because they can be quite dangerous. For example, many medical professionals, such as surgeons, need to work long hours throughout the night.”
According to Fenn, there are a number of tasks that should be avoided if you haven’t had enough sleep and basically these are anything that could have potentially damaging consequences. “I would caution against doing anything like driving or operating heavy machinery or performing any task in which an error could be significant,” Fenn said.
“A good rule to follow is that you should not attempt any task while sleep deprived that you would not (or should not) attempt while intoxicated, irrespective of caffeine.” Yikes!
While we all know the importance of sleep (and how integral it is for your overall health), it’s interesting to see the flip side of this and just how detrimental sleep deprivation can be, especially on your brain. According to Healthline, this research supports the theory that sleep deprivation erodes the ability to complete cognitive tasks effectively.
“Caffeine can help you get through a midday slump, but it isn’t a substitute for a good night’s rest,” Dr. Anthony Puopolo told Healthline. “The importance of adequate sleep is especially relevant for individuals in high-functioning environments who often have to work long hours, such as doctors and truck drivers. A stable work-life balance can create better and safer outcomes for all. Understand your body’s needs and try to get as much rest as possible, when needed.”
While this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue on with your coffee ritual each morning, it’s simply a good reminder not to rely on caffeine too much — something we all tend to do at various points. Instead of making up for your lack of sleep with an extra coffee during the day, prioritise your slumber and make sure you’re getting sleep that is both high in quality and quantity.