Caffeine’s Dark Side for an IT Professional
July 30, 2015
Australia’s coffee consumption is 0.8 cups per day per capita. For many, coffee is a daily ritual for caffeine, a stimulant that is taken to feel more alert and improve mood. For some, caffeine is a way to pull an all nighter migrating a data-center or finishing a software code library that you’ve been debugging for weeks. On the surface, caffeine improves cognitive performance. However, there is always a flip side to a coin. Here are some things to think about before downing the next cup of coffee:
It’s not as good as you think
Research from the John Hopkins Medical School suggests that the cognitive performance improvements of caffeine intake diminishes after controlling for caffeine use in the study’s participants. For many drugs, like caffeine, the brain adjusts in anticipation of the drug. In other words, after frequent caffeine consumption, your performance is lowered while in a withdrawal phase without caffeine and your performance improves after you consume caffeine. This improvement from caffeine intake only raises your performance to a level that you might have been without frequent caffeine consumption.
In short, caffeine is not necessarily improving your performance. You think you are taking caffeine to stay awake to finish a software code library. In reality, caffeine is helping you attain the performance you would have had without frequent caffeine consumption. Maybe the daily cup of coffee in the morning is not that good for you after all. It is a good idea to hold off the caffeine when pulling an all-nighter. In fact, just get some sleep!
Caffeine triggers release of adrenaline, which is the source of the “fight or flight” response. In other words, caffeine puts the brain into a hyper-aroused state. In this state, fast response is prioritised over rational thinking. Many people experience this in the form of irritability or anxiety (or the “shakes”).
Being placed in such a hyper-aroused mental state can be detrimental to performance in the office. The last thing that you need in a high-performance IT environment is to let your irritability and/or anxiety take control of your thought processes. This hyper-aroused state can quickly diminish performance if it interferes with work.
Caffeine affects your sleep schedule
In an earlier article, we talked about how a good night’s rest can keep you awake and energetic in the morning to tackle incoming tasks effectively. Caffeine has the potential to interrupt sleep schedules. Caffeine has a six and a half hour half-life, which means that the amount of caffeine in your system decreases by 50% with each 6.5 hours. In other words, if you consume caffeine at 7 a.m., 25% of that caffeine is still in your system by 8 p.m.
Most importantly though, is how caffeine contributes to a feedback loop. Caffeine prevents you from sleeping well, which makes you tired in the morning, which causes you to take some caffeine to stay alert and wake up, which stays long enough in your system to prevent you from sleeping well. These disruptive aspects of caffeine can put a severely detrimental impact on the high-productivity, high-performance work expectations of an IT professional.
It is easy to take coffee and its caffeine as an easy way to stay alert and improve performance in the workplace. It may be an easy way to stay up late to finish that PHP project with a looming deadline. However, getting some sleep and cutting back on caffeine usage is very important. A good night’s sleep can make you feel refreshed to tackle challenges in the morning.
How much coffee do you drink per day? Do you think that you are drinking too much or too little? Tell us what you think!
Senior Tech Talent Manager
An Irish cat living the dream in Sydney I don’t know what to tell ya! Even though I’m a long way from the homeland I’ve successfully built up 5 years of local industry knowledge specialising in emerging technologies. I have a strong JAVA and Ruby on Rails following in NSW and VIC. I also have extensive experience sourcing specialist software development teams for technology companies with highly transactional, high volume, data intensive environments. Let’s catch up for a pint, but do send me a message and we’ll see what happens!
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