Students who are counting on caffeine as a study aid during finals week may not realize that too much of this stimulant can actually undercut academic performance.
With often crazy schedules and the pressure of important exams, Northern students may boost caffeine intake hoping to gain a few extra hours of study time. Students who use caffeine in an attempt to amplify their performance on exams probably don’t know that caffeine is actually working against them.
“Students have been busy all semester balancing class, assignments, jobs and family,” said NMU health promotion specialist Lenny Shible. “By the time you hit exam week, that is when they are trying to eke out an extra minute to study for finals. In many cases students are trying to be as productive as possible and they think the use of excessive amounts of caffeine will make them more productive.”
The Baseline of Health Foundation suggests that there may be some benefits to caffeine if consumed responsibly. Moderate caffeine consumption for most adults, 200 to 300 milligrams, or about two to four cups of brewed coffee a day aren’t harmful. But heavy use, more than 500 to 600 milligrams a day, or about four to seven cups of coffee, can cause a whole host of problems.
These side effects include insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, nausea, fast or irregular heartbeat, muscle tremors and headaches, according to the Mayo Clinic.
While physical and emotional effects may be common if too much caffeine is consumed, relying on it as a study aid could not only jeopardize your health, but it may not be as beneficial towards schoolwork as many think, according to Shible.
When students resort to caffeine, they are inhibiting their body and their ability to function, according to Angelo State University.
“Your body is constantly trying to get back to a balanced state, we prohibit it from functioning the way it should,” said Robin Rahoi, Northern’s registered dietician. “Every time your body takes a step closer to balance, your brain will be able to respond better. Students will be much better equipped to handle the stresses of the day if at a balanced state than having to troubleshoot and add caffeine. Students owe it to themselves. They have a miraculous, wonderful body; take care of that sucker.”
Liz Wachowiak, physiology major and self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur said she has experienced a run-in with the side effects of overconsumption.
“My throat felt like it was going to close up and I’d suffocate,” she said. “I had just consumed more caffeine than I thought was humanly possible in an attempt to aid in my studying for my first immunology exam. I ended up curled up in a ball on the floor for an hour.”
Alissa Cherry, a shift supervisor for Starbucks, said there is a notable increase in sales at the campus coffee shop during finals week, as students like Wachowiak rely increasingly on caffeine to get in more study time before big tests.
There are several things a student can do to ensure that they are drinking a moderate amount of caffeine.
“Don’t drink caffeine after 3 p.m., have three meals a day, drink 64 ounces of water daily, exercise most days of the week and get eight hours of sleep,” Rahoi said.
If caffeine is a must for exams this semester, make sure to use it in moderation.
“Since caffeine is a relatively short-acting drug, meaning it does not stay in your system very long, students who are using some form of caffeine to study should take precautions to avoid any sudden crash, especially during exams,” Shible said.
“So, make sure to have that last cup of coffee or that last bottle of caffeinated pop just a bit before heading into your exam so that you will be as alert as possible throughout your entire exam period.”