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Caffeine: A Blessing and a Curse For the Average College Student

A lot of college students rely on caffeine to get through their day-to-day lives, myself included. I’ll bet at least some of you are drinking something caffeinated right now as you’re reading this. Heck, I’m drinking something caffeinated while I’m writing this. Of course, there are benefits and drawbacks to everything when it comes to our favorite caffeinated beverages.

For instance, caffeine’s obvious benefit is that it provides a boost of energy for the consumer. We all know that caffeine supposedly does that (I’ll get to that later), and that’s why many of us consume it in the first place. If you didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before, having some coffee seems like a good short-term solution to your problems. Of course, ideally, caffeine shouldn’t be a substitute for sleep, but sometimes life’s just like that.

And that brings us to the first drawback. While caffeine doesn’t seem to have the same addictive properties as other stimulants, you can experience symptoms of withdrawal from not consuming caffeine when your body has become used to it. It can be anything from feeling a little down to having a headache or body aches. And of course, what are you going to want to do when you feel like crap? You’re going to want to sleep. Exactly. And that’s not good when it’s 10:30 AM, and you have an exam over Zoom at 11 AM. So if you’re going to try to wean off the caffeine, it’s a good idea to go slowly rather than dropping it cold turkey.

On the bright side, when consumed responsibly, caffeine has been shown to have some health benefits potentially. Namely, caffeine, specifically when you drink coffee, could reduce the risk of some diseases like diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Also, coming from someone who has migraines, caffeine can be beneficial when you have a migraine when consumed in conjunction with taking some Tylenol. Medicines made explicitly for headaches (think Excedrin) usually have caffeine in the formula for this very reason. However, these health benefits aren’t guaranteed. Namely, it’s not recommended to have caffeine every time your head hurts a little. Not every ache in your head is a migraine, and consuming caffeine for a typical headache may lead to more problems than solutions.

Another drawback, however, is that caffeine doesn’t work the same for everyone, particularly for those who are neurodivergent. For instance, caffeine supposedly makes it hard for you to sleep. In fact, if you want to be able to go to bed on time, it’s recommended that you don’t consume a minimum of six hours before bedtime. However, not everyone has this exact reaction to caffeine? For example, I have ADHD, and caffeine tends to make me calm or even sleepy because it’s working as a stimulant the same way a medication would. And for some people, this would be a problem for them, but I find it useful because I find it’s a lot easier to focus on caffeine and subsequently calm down and get sleepy. While this is common with people with ADHD, being drowsy or calm after having caffeine isn’t necessarily a sign that you have it.

To sum it all up, caffeine is a substance that many of us use to get through the day, but be careful when going for that third cup of coffee in the morning.

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