Balancing sleep, caffeine and alcohol can be like walking the high wire. The National Sleep Foundation calls caffeine and alcohol “sleep stealers.” But studies show they are beneficial in moderate amounts.
6:38 a.m. That hour comes all too early, especially if people were drinking the night before. It’s the time when the average American awakens after an average night of 7 hours and 36 minutes of sleep. And the first thing most people do in the morning is brew a pot of coffee.
A 2015 study of more than 1.2 million people found that folks who drink 3 to 5 cups of black coffee a day have fewer heart problems than those who drink none. People who drink 5 or more cups don’t have any more problems than anyone else.
Two other studies, meta-analyses that collated data from 11 other research articles, found that drinking 2 to 6 cups a day results in a lower risk of stroke disease. One of those meta-studies included data from more than 500,000 participants.
We have good news for lovers of America’s two favorite mood-altering substances, caffeine and marijuana: Caffeine may enhance a pot smoker’s high.
The downside is that caffeine can also increase the chance of becoming addicted to cannabis.
Coffee was so important in wartime America during World War II that the government rationed it briefly so soldiers could get enough. Coffee was one of four staples for Civil War soldiers, along with beans, beef and hardtack. After Boston Tea Partiers dumped that tea in the harbor during the Revolution, coffee drinkers were considered patriotic.
Coffee can give a soldier the alertness he needs in times of prolonged sleep loss or during dangerous combat situations.
Caffeine can boost athletic stamina and speed so much that the International Olympic Committee once limited how much of it Olympic athletes could take. Caffeine was categorized as a performance-enhancing substance.
The regular athlete might not be able to run a marathon in 2:02.57 like Dennis Kimetto, but maybe after an invigorating jolt of java you can one run just a little bit quicker and burn some fat in the process. Caffeine can improve performance by 1.5 to 3 percent, recent studies show. And the amount needed to give the boost is no more than that in an 8-ounce cup of coffee or an energy drink or two.
Sages and philosophers from various world traditions have counseled “Everything in moderation,” and, stated another way, “Nothing in excess.” These aphorisms apply to caffeine, too, because too much of this otherwise beneficial chemical can cause insomnia, nervousness, muscle tremors and stomach upset.
When people talk about having “a cup of coffee,” they don’t necessarily mean 8 ounces (236 milliliters). For example, many people go for the large size of coffee at McDonald’s restaurants and Starbucks, at 20 ounces (591 milliliters). Or at home, they may have a 12- to 16-ounce mug.
So when you read guides online that say an 8-ounce cup of drip java has about 163 mg of caffeine, you can more than double the amount of the stimulating chemical for a 20-ounce size. Drip coffee is the kind that drips through a filter to produce that cup or mug of the elixir that so many people say they can’t start their day without.