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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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The buzz on caffeine

Every morning, the scene is the same. Sleep-deprived GW students flock to Viva Java at J Street. Grabbing a cup of coffee, many hope that the caffeine rush will help them stay awake through their early morning classes. For some students, it is their first cup of coffee, but for others the fresh smell of roasted beans has been flowing through their rooms for hours.

Even the smell perks me up, junior Ramona Batre says. But what does caffeine, which is a major ingredient of coffee, really do to help students stay awake during all-nighters or wake up after a long night of work?

Junior Natalie Ojunga-Andrews says she does not usually like to drink coffee.

I don’t like its taste, she says. I only drink it around finals or when I really need to study.

Caffeine is one of the most commonly used drugs, according to the 1999 edition of Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment. Throughout the world, about 10 billion pounds of coffee are consumed annually.

Students are using (coffee) as a drug, says Dr. Wayne Miller, professor of exercise science and nutrition.

There is not a firm consensus in the medical community on coffee’s effects on the body, says Susan Haney, director of the student outreach program at the GW Hospital.

Low to moderate intake of caffeine, which is considered to be 30-200 milligrams, tends to improve some aspects of performance. According to the 1999 edition of Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, brewed coffee contains 80-140 milligrams of caffeine, instant coffee contains 60-100 milligrams and decaffeinated coffee 1-6 milligrams.

I never used to like coffee that much, but now by midday I have to have a cup, Batre says. I guess I am addicted to it.

The ingestion of too much caffeine, generally acknowledged to be more than 500 milligram, is called caffeinism. Symptoms of caffeinism include anxiety, agitation, restlessness and insomnia.

Although people think it helps them stay awake, it can be counterproductive, Haney says. Coffee makes students anxious, she says, and therefore they cannot be productive.

It doesn’t help me stay awake all of the time, Ojuna-Andrews says. Sometimes I could drink a cup of coffee and go right to sleep. I don’t always see the effects.

Junior Tessa Humphries-Bickley says she is wary of coffee’s wake-up power.

If you feel you need coffee because you desperately need to stay awake, your body is telling you that you really need to sleep, she says.

Students often crash after drinking too much coffee.

It isn’t the actual coffee that will make you crash, Miller says. Because your body is suffering from sleep deprivation, it shuts down.

Coffee can increase metabolism and the activity in the central nervous system, Miller says. It is also a diuretic, a substance that increases the flow of urine. Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal are headaches, irritability, lethargy and occasional nausea.

I would not recommend drinking coffee (to stay awake), Miller says.

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