Jan 2, 2010

relationship between caffein consumption and study habit

Jan 2, 2010
Caffeine consumption has become a huge controversy in the United States. There are differing opinions on caffeine, but most people tend to think that it affects a person negatively. Some people are beginning to label caffeine consumption as a social problem and some go as far as referring to the United States population as “caffeine addicts. Others are even pressing the regulation of the amount of caffeine in certain products (Troyer & Markle, 1984).

Caffeine has been associated with occupational stress and anxiety about grade point average and is known to disrupt sleep quality and cause sleep disturbances (Gormley, 1996). It has also been associated with lower grades and depression in college students (Troyer & Markle, 1984). However, with all of this negative attention, caffeine still seems to be the “drug” of choice. Four out of five Americans consume caffeine daily (Schardt & Schmidt,1996). Many are consuming caffeine to have a heightened energy level or at least a sufficient one.

Caffeine is a stimulant and it works by interfering with the brain chemical adenosine. Adenosine usually slows down activity and has a calming effect. Higher consumption of caffeine results in lower levels of adenosine and this is why caffeine puts off sleep and raises concentration levels (Schardt & Schmidt, 1996). College students have a great risk of becoming caffeine dependent because they can use these effects of caffeine to their advantage, especially when studying. Our strongest memories are of things that are emotionally provoking (Braun, 1996). That would mean that late night crammers armed with caffeine would tend to remember things more clearly because the caffeine is undoubtedly provoking their emotions. Studies have shown that caffeine improves the ability to do things that require “speed” but has little or no effect on things requiring “power” (Braun, 1996). When talking about things requiring “speed,” it is meant that tasks such as simple arithmetic, visual-choice reaction time, and “data-driven” tasks are easier to do. Caffeine, then, would be ideal for a student preparing for a test that might require the use of these tasks. However, there is no solid evidence whether caffeine is or is not helpful in performing intellectual tasks. It has been shown that caffeine may worsen performance for more complicated tasks such as long word problems that are quite complex (Schardt & Schmidt, 1996). This may be more along the lines of what is being studied by college students.

Studies conducted on this topic usually conclude that the effects of caffeine are dependent on the person. One study found signs that mental performance is affected by caffeine, and concluded that this affect was dependent on the impulsiveness of the user. Impulsive people were defined as those who were more concerned with speed than accuracy and who were more awake in the evening than in the morning. When impulsive people were given caffeine in the morning, when they were usually not fully aroused, such tasks as proofreading for grammatical and typographical errors improved. When caffeine was given to them in the evening, however, performance on tasks such as the above mentioned was worse than when they did not consume any caffeine at all. On the other hand, people who were not defined as impulsive reacted the exact opposite way, doing better in the evening and worse in the morning (Braun, 1996). This study basically contributed to the idea that the effects of caffeine are dependent on the person and also the task they are performing. Taking all of this into consideration, a general rule that could be formed seems to be caffeine is more helpful to people who tend to be not naturally aroused and for working on tasks that are straightforward (Braun, 1996). Therefore, caffeine would be an asset for a college student who is trying to put off sleep late at night to study for a test where memorization would be a pretty straightforward task. Studying this way, however, would be considered unhealthy according to a college survival tip list where studying during the day and avoiding food and drink containing caffeine right before or right after studying are listed ( This would be an unhealthy study habit because the best thing you could do before a test is sleep good the preceding night. Also, sleep deprivation in general is an unhealthy habit. This would probably cause a student to be more anxious about the test because they would be up all night worrying about it. This leads to the subject of anxiety level and caffeine consumption.

In another study, caffeine effects were measured in normal school-age children. Twenty-one participants were evaluated and measured on attention tests, short-term memory, processing speed, and anxiety levels and caffeine levels were determined by saliva samples. The study concluded that the children were reporting higher levels of anxiety after caffeine consumption but the caffeine enhanced their performance on a test of attention and motor tasks. Other data obtained from the same article also indicates that higher doses of caffeine produced a subjective feeling of anxiety in adults (Bernstein & et al, 1994). Anxiety in a college student’s life does not help them be as successful as they could be. According to Matiasen (1984), students with high levels of debilitating anxiety and lower levels of facilitating anxiety were linked to “academic frustration syndrome.” This basically means that the high level of debilitating anxiety these students had was holding them back from their full potential and they wound up becoming frustrated with their academic work because they didn’t have enough facilitating, or helpful anxiety to balance out. Caffeine dependent students may not even be aware that the caffeine they are consuming, for example to help them stay up late and study, may be having these negative effects on them.

Caffeine brings out mixed thoughts in people. Some think its helpful to them, others treat caffeine like it really is a “drug.” Either way, it is known that caffeine has some sort of effect on a person. This study intended to see if there was any relationship between caffeine consumption and study habits. It was hypothesized that higher levels of caffeine consumption would be correlated with unhealthy study habits. It also tried to find out if college students are using caffeine to their advantage or disadvantage.

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