The Science of Drinking Coffee

(Military Health System photo by U.S. Army Spc. Anthony Zane)

(Military Health System photo by U.S. Army Spc. Anthony Zane)

A military health student made headlines this week with a report that may alter your morning routine.

In a recent BrainFacts blog, Steven Miller, a Ph.D. candidate at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, explained how your body clock provides a natural high that caffeine consumption could be masking. Coffee drinkers need that daily dose of caffeine in the morning to get their day going –sometimes two or three.

But did you know that there’s an optimal time to down your morning cup of joe?

There’s actually a field of study that looks at the interaction of biologic rhythms and drug use. In other words, researchers examine how your body behaves on caffeine. As a result, they are able to determine how coffee affects your circadian rhythms, or your body clock.

The circadian clock controls when you sleep, when you rise and when your hormones are released. If the body’s stress hormone, or cortisol, is at its peak, then drinking coffee at that moment is a bad move. In his blog, Miller pointed out that cortisol production determines how alert you are, and it reaches its highest level between 8 and 9 a.m.

Ingesting caffeine when you’re already extremely alert is unnecessary and may cause you to develop a tolerance so that you need even higher levels of caffeine to stay alert during the day.

Coffee is most effective if you drink it between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. when your cortisol level begins to dip before its next spike in the afternoon.

What should you do during the early morning hours to stay alert? Researchers suggest that exposure to sunlight will increase morning cortisol production and keep you sharp.

Story and information provided by the Military Health System

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