Coffee or Sleep?

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Yes you have read articles like this before, but how about from the point of view from a mildly informed college student?  I do not have a degree in chemistry but I am very into healthful eating and treating your body right. My general education classes, especially from the LAS college, have exposed me to both nutrition and psychology research on these subjects that I am happy to share.  This doesn’t mean I am going to tell you not to drink caffeine.  Caffeine is unavoidable for college students during dead week and finals week, but there is a safe and a dangerous way of consuming all that liquid energy.

Let’s start with the dangerous: energy drinks and insane amounts of coffee.  Have you heard of a “shot in the dark?” It is a regular cup of coffee with an extra shot of expresso floated on top.  Not a good idea.  How about the energy drink NOS? The 16 oz. can packs in more milligrams of caffeine than a Rock Star, Monster, or Red Bull.  Caffeinated drinks are not created equal, as seen in this handy little chart here.

The goal is to drink your caffeine slowly and prolong it as long as possible. This is why a small cup of coffee is in fact a good choice since the hot liquid usually means you slowly sip it instead of shot-gunning a Red Bull. In the latter decision the scenario looks a lot like a manic study session followed by a huge crash later.  Even a regular soda drunken slowly or a cup of tea (black tea will have the highest caffeine levels) will give you a boost without the crazed effects of a highly concentrated energy drink.

Another huge tip: do not consume caffeine late at night, let your body rest!  We don’t want Iowa State to look like the next set for the Walking Dead. This little article highlights the issues college students have with sleep and the benefits of getting those eight hours.  I’ll sum up the main point in that you will do much better on that 7:45 a.m. final if you actually get into bed around 10 p.m. instead of cramming and catching only a couple hours of fitful rest.  The information will stick in your brain much better and you will be more alert to apply all that knowledge on the test the next day.

So in the end, go ahead and wait in the enormous Caribou or Bookends line during the morning or early afternoon. Sometimes an added kick is needed to get through the eight more chapters yet to read. However, (you knew that was coming I know) cut off the consumption by dinnertime and let your mind actually absorb and store all the facts you are desperately trying to memorize. Remember that your advisors are still around to help you cope with the stress but also realize this stress is normal and is probably helping you be a motivated A student.  Strike a balance between caffeine and sleep and let that balance help you ace those exams.  Good luck!

Posted by: Nicole Suchsland