by Amelia Murray-Cooper
photography courtesy of Pexels
With campus Starbucks lines often trailing out the door during peak hours, it’s safe to say that many Boston University students, staff members and faculty love their caffeine. Caffeinated beverages are easily accessible to college students, from energy drinks in vending machines, to cafes around the city, to soft drink dispensers in dining halls.
Since caffeine is so readily available, it’s no surprise that it has become a core component of many students’ daily routines. However, an appreciation for an occasional cup of coffee can easily spiral into a so-called caffeine addiction, which could potentially cause some adverse health effects.
Some students drink coffee throughout the day. What starts as a routine morning cup of joe as an early pick-me-up can quickly lead to an afternoon cappuccino to keep them energized on a busy day even a late-night latte to fuel study sessions. For students who regularly depend on coffee, soda or energy drinks to get through the day, it may be time to reconsider these habits and seek healthier alternatives.
While some people enjoy grabbing coffee with friends or sipping on an occasional soda because they enjoy the taste, others use caffeine as a tool to fight fatigue. According to WebMD, drinking caffeine later in the day can contribute to insomnia and cause people to have trouble falling asleep at night, making them more tired the next day. This may lead to a harmful cycle that only intensifies tiredness, causing of a desire to consume more caffeine.
Caffeine is a stimulant, meaning frequent intake can lead to a mild physical addiction. However, it’s important to note that caffeine addictions do not compare to other substance addictions, as they do not pose the same social, economic or physical health risks as drugs or alcohol. For this reason, most experts do not consider caffeine dependence a serious addiction that requires medical intervention. Nonetheless, consuming too much caffeine on a regular basis can lead to harmful effects that should be identified.
According to WebMd, people who consume multiple cups of coffee each day and abruptly stop can face a number of withdrawal symptoms. These effects may include headaches, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood and difficulty concentrating. This means that once someone becomes accustomed to frequent caffeine intake, it can be tricky to let go of the habit from both a mental and physical perspective.
To kick a caffeine addiction, there are plenty of methods to boost energy without involving harmful stimulants. One simple solution is to increase daily water intake, as this will hydrate the body and may help replace the desire to sip on coffee or energy drinks. Water can also be infused with vitamins and antioxidants by dropping in slices of fresh fruits and vegetables, adding both a refreshing flavor and an energizing effect.
Exercise can also make you feel more awake by increasing oxygen flow to the brain and muscles through the blood. While breaking out into jumping jacks in the middle of a busy day may not be realistic, simple activities like taking the stairs instead of the elevator can help stimulate the body. According to a 2014 article in Scientific American, even listening to music can help boost your mood and make you feel more awake, so listening to music while lightly exercising is a great way to feel livelier without caffeine.
Ultimately, the best way to reduce a dependency on caffeine is to get enough sleep at night. With a busy college student schedule, this can seem nearly impossible—hence the need for caffeine in the first place. However, setting aside time for seven to eight hours of sleep each night will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day without caffeine.