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Caffeine, a stimulant drug, is not an alternative to sleep

Although students have a plethora of new responsibilities, they should continue to prioritize sleep

ASU student Christine Boisson orders at the Starbucks in the MU on Oct. 17, 2016.
ASU student Christine Boisson orders at the Starbucks in the MU on Oct. 17, 2016.

I, like most, look forward to my daily coffee fix. I have begun to make the assumption that I can not get any work done in a day without it and have upped my daily intake accordingly.

I belong to the majority in this sense. According to Villanova University, about 90 percent of Americans consume caffeine in some form daily. Additionally, the recommended amount of caffeine is 300 mg a day, but over half of caffeine users consume more than this.

For college, the statistics are a bit different. This is due, in part, to the fact that college students don’t prioritize sleep. According to The Huffington Post, 78 percent of college freshmen consume more than the recommended amount of caffeine.

Unfortunately, most don’t realize that caffeine can be extremely detrimental to the human body. Studies show that coffee has been linked to a rise in blood pressure, various anxiety disorders, an increase in the heart attack rate among young adults, cases of insomnia, reduced fertility in women and increased rates of depression.

“Caffeine is a stimulant which when consumed in excess can make us feel jittery, can increase heart rate, and can actually lead to insomnia,” Sarah Martinelli, lecturer for ASU's school of nutrition, said. “Over consumption of caffeine then leads to a cycle of feeling tired because you didn’t sleep well, consuming more caffeine in an attempt to compensate for poor sleep, which only further disrupts our sleep cycle.”

Students don’t realize that there is no adequate substitute for natural ways of acquiring energy such as sleep and a balanced diet. These forms of energy, though harder to find with a time constraint, don’t harm the human body as most forms of caffeine do.

“Getting enough sleep is the number one thing you can do to get more energy during the day,” Melinda Johnson, clinical associate professor for ASU's school of nutrition, said. “Staying hydrated also helps because your body has to work harder when you are dehydrated. Getting good nutrition is also essential — your body needs the vitamins and minerals found in food to function so focusing on getting fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein will help. 

"Finally, getting enough exercise helps with energy — it helps relieve stress (which zaps energy), helps you to sleep and helps sharpen the mind.”


Students attempt to justify the overuse of caffeine by pointing to their busy schedule and all the new responsibilities they need to juggle. However, they fail to realize that sleep ought to be prioritized over caffeine, which is poor substitute for energy, and a good night of sleep can be achieved simply by managing one’s time.

“As a society, we all want to have more energy to do everything we want to do in a day. Students are no different,” Jessica Lehman, lecturer for ASU's school of nutrition, said. “But we also are taking shortcuts on our health and relying on using caffeine for short-term energy instead of going back to the basics: sleep, exercise, balanced meals and staying well-hydrated.”

Caffeine is a stimulant drug and should be treated accordingly. Unfortunately for college students, shortcuts to energy will only work for so long, and our tolerance level will only rise with time. The fact that withdrawal symptoms are a possibility should be enough to deter students from consuming as much caffeine as they do. 

Reach the columnist at or follow @ghirneise2 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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