Drinking coffee has become a ritual for many of us in our daily lives. Coffee not only keeps you alert, awake and concentrated but keeps your sleepiness away for the rest of the day making you more productive. Caffeine is the main component in most of the drinks you take. Whether you drink coffee, tea or chocolate, caffeine is present everywhere. But have you ever wondered how a single cup of coffee would keep you up all night during your exams? Let’s find out how coffee works on our mind to keep us awake.
Coffee is the most popular drink among many Americans and has gained popularity worldwide due to its awakening properties. Coffee contains a primary component known as caffeine. Caffeine works by changing chemistry of the brain. It blocks the action of a natural brain chemical that is associated with sleep. Sleepiness sets in by the slowing down of nerve cell activity in your brain. A chemical called adenosine binds to adenosine receptors in the brain. The binding of adenosine causes the slowing down of the nerve cell activity. Adenosine also binds blood vessels to dilate by letting more oxygen during sleep and this activity also sets in sleepiness in individuals.
Adenosine is produced by your daily activities you do. The surprising fact about caffeine is that when you drink coffee and for a nerve cell, a caffeine component looks like adenosine. Hence, caffeine binds to the adenosine receptors. Since the cells cannot sense adenosine because caffeine takes up all the receptors adenosine binds to. As a result, instead of slowing down due to adenosine levels, the cells actually speed up. Caffeine also causes the brain’s blood vessels to constrict as it blocks adenosine’s ability to open them up.
When caffeine blocks the adenosine, you have increased neurons activated in the brain. The pituitary gland takes up this activity as some sort of emergency and releases hormones that indicate adrenal glands to produce adrenaline. Since adrenaline is the ‘fight or flight hormone which causes numerous effects on your body:
- Your pupils dilate
- Your breathing tubes open up (due to this effect people suffering from asthma are sometimes injected with epinephrine)
- Your heart beats are faster
- Blood vessels on the surface constrict to slow blood flow from cuts and also to increase blood flow to muscles and your blood pressure also rises
- Blood flow to the stomach slows
- The liver releases sugar into the bloodstream for extra energy
- Muscles tighten up ready for action
This is how your body responds after you guzzle down a cup of coffee. You feel more alert and awake; your hands get cold, and your muscles tense up, you are more energetic, you feel excited and you can feel your heart beat increasing.
This is how caffeine can keep you all night awake. That’s why we love coffee. It always comes to rescue us when we have exams or want to work on an office project.