Caffeine ingested in moderation can help improve memory, concentration and cognitive performance, and all of these can definitely help students be more successful in school. Coffee also helps to combat the fatigue that sometimes accompanies early-morning classes; it also produces a sense of alertness that may help students pay attention and retain more during class and study periods. The key word is “moderation.” Too much caffeine causes unpleasant side effects that interfere with concentration, including muscle tremors, anxiety and jittery feelings.
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Students may do better in school when they adhere to the recommended amount of caffeine. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, 250 mg of caffeine per day represents a safe amount. This is the equivalent of three 8 oz. cups of coffee. Anything over 600 mg of caffeine per day – the equivalent of four or more cups of coffee – the MayoClinic.com considers an unsafe amount.
Caffeine tends to enhance memory, according to a 2009 study, a highly desirable effect for students studying for exams. Minnesota researchers from Hamline University discovered that college students scored higher on a recall test after ingesting caffeine compared to their counterparts who received a placebo. The results were published in the journal “Psychological Reports.”
Energy drinks appear to positively influence cognitive performance, and so may be of use to students. A 2004 study conducted by UK researchers and published in the journal “Appetite” demonstrated that the combination of caffeine and glucose found in energy drinks improved the study subjects’ performance in a number of mentally challenging tasks. Again, moderation is the goal. Some energy drinks contain a significant amount of caffeine – as much as 140 mg per serving – so drink no more than two per day.
Negative side effects associated with too much caffeine can undermine cognitive performance. These include anxiety, restlessness, jittery feelings, upset stomach, stomach cramps, muscle tremors, irritability and a racing heart rate, all of which will make it exceedingly difficult to concentrate on school work. Also, caffeine is a diuretic, so too much of it may cause dehydration and headaches. Several common medications and supplements may interact negatively with caffeine, including antibiotics and echinacea.