Growing up I never had coffee. I hated the taste. Even growing up in Seattle, the mecca of Starbucks, I managed to avoid coffee and caffeine throughout high school. However, when I got to college things changed.
I remember finals week during the first semester of my freshman year, and the amount of information I needed to know within a few days was beyond anything I had attempted to cram into my brain before. Everyone was shuttling to and from the library with coffee cup in hand during the week, and at the beginning of what I knew was going to be a late night I ordered a tall coffee and joined the club. Since then, I’ve remained a dedicated coffee drinker to help me push through all sorts of tasks.
However, the question remains, is caffeine a good thing to have when you’re studying? Most people feel their energy levels increase within a half hour of consuming a caffeinated product, but is this increased energy level good for studying?
The first question you need to ask is, what are the effects caffeine has on you personally?
Some people are very sensitive to caffeine. They have a small coffee and soon they get the jitters or get anxious. Other people can can have an espresso right before bedtime and fall asleep no problem. Caffeine has a different effect on everyone, and so it’s important to know the effect it has on you before judging whether or not it can help you study.
Before you decide to have a Red Bull the night before an important exam make sure you know your tolerance level and how it effects you. When you have a good working knowledge of what caffeine does to you, you’ll be able to use it strategically during the day without damaging your sleep or your health.
Another thing to keep in mind is how caffeine changes your energy levels. After you have some caffeine, are you able to focus well? Or are you energized but your mind feels like it’s flying around jumping from one idea to the next? You need to match your caffeine consumption with the type of studying that needs to get done. If you need to read analytically, then you’ll need to make sure you can focus intensely on your work. If you’re doing something more creative and out of the box, then maybe free form thoughts darting across your mind would be helpful.
Before chugging a cup of coffee just because everyone else is, make sure you’ve thoroughly tested different caffeine levels from different caffeine sources, and know how each of those caffeine sources made you feel. Even though caffeine is very common, it’s not the same from one product to the next. Caffeinated coffees and teas can effect you differently. And even types of coffees have different effects!
Overall, the takeaway is that caffeine can be helpful when you’re studying but it depends on who you are, how much caffeine you have, and where you get your caffeine from. Make sure you know the answers to these questions before you start studying!