Thursday, February 14, 2013

College Students and Caffeine

Tripping on the C

Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2013 at 2:23 PM

For me, a day without coffee is like a sky without the sun. Considering we don’t actually get a lot of sun in Rochester, maybe that’s a bad metaphor and something you’re used to. Scratch that.

If I don’t have coffee, I’m miserable. Not in the cliché, “Oh-my-gosh-where’s-my-iced-latte” kind of way but more like the I-literally-can’t–function-because-my-hands-are-shaking way.

I like it black. Sometimes I’ll have an affair with a soy latte or add a hint of cream, but all I really need is one key ingredient – caffeine.

For most college students an obsession with caffeine is pretty common.

Why? We work pretty damn hard and are often up into the wee hours of the morning. We are also newly independent, free to make our own schedules, and fond of “meeting new people.” How else are we supposed to stay awake, when sleep is clearly not an option? I mean c’mon!

Picture this: It’s Friday. I’m done with classes for the week. I just worked my butt off and I just turned 21. We can all do the math. In case you can’t, I’m hinting at the fact that I probably won’t be starting any homework until Sunday night.

“On Friday and Saturday nights, I’m usually out until 3 a.m.,” Chris Cahill, a senior at RIT said. “I work on the weekends, so there isn’t really any catching up on sleep or sleeping in,” Cahill said.

His quick fix for excessive tiredness?

“Red Bull … because it gives me wings,” Cahill said. “No, but really, it keeps me awake.”

According to Bruce Goldberger, a toxicologist at The University of Florida, caffeine can stay in the body anywhere from two and a half hours to 12 hours. He has found that the typical half-life of caffeine is around five hours, which means it is usually present in our bodies for at least 10 hours.

The problem? While in college, our bodies are already over stimulated. Adding caffeine to the mix not only messes with our body’s natural sleep cycle but also our metabolism. Goldberger says if you hope to be asleep by midnight, you shouldn’t consume caffeine past 2 p.m.

I know at 2 p.m., I’m most likely just coming down from the caffeine high I’ve had all morning. It is pretty much exactly the same time I’m going to Javas or Artesano’s on campus, to grab my second fix. While I’m usually able to fall asleep, there have been times I’ve laid awake until 3 a.m. You can only imagine what the next day is like.

Others have had a similar experience.

“I had two jobs, was studying engineering, and basically just wasn’t sleeping,” Michelle Lafica, a recent graduate of The University at Buffalo from Fairport, who also became a coffee addict while in school, said.

However, coffee wasn’t the only thing keeping her from sleep.

“Even when I didn’t have things to do, I couldn’t sleep because I was so stressed out,” Lafica said.

So what can be done to ease stress and increase sleep for college students?

Good question.

At this point, I don’t see myself giving up caffeine anytime soon. My co-workers and I have even begun to beg our boss to buy a Keurig for our office. If all goes my way, I’ll soon be drinking more coffee than ever. Who needs sleep when you have books to read, definitions to memorize, and papers to write? They always say you can sleep when you’re dead.

But hopefully there’s an endless supply of coffee in the “real world.”

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