You may recall from science class that the body’s cells use a special fuel called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). As ATP is used in brain cells, it leaves behind a heap of plain adenosine. By the end of the day, so much adenosine builds up in each cell that it starts a chain reaction that creates “cobwebs” in our brains, forcing our minds to lose focus and our eyes to close.
That’s where coffee can come to the rescue!
Caffeine blocks the brain from recognizing that adenosine levels are high, which stops that “I’m sleepy” message so you feel wide-awake. Caffeine also causes the release of adrenaline–providing a little jolt of nervous energy–and it boosts dopamine, one of the brain’s natural “feel-good” chemicals.
Caffeine may seem like a tempting quick fix when you’re short on sleep…but beware! It passes right into the breast milk and can cause your baby to become irritable and more awake.
Furthermore, caffeine lingers in the body for over 12 hours (a quarter of the caffeine from a noontime cup of coffee is still in your blood at midnight). This can keep you from being able to sink into deep sleep. And the fatigue from too little deep sleep may make your feel even more tired, irritable and depressed and make you reach for even more caffeine the next day.
My suggestion? Limit your coffee to just a morning cup. If you’re exhausted, try to take a nap, rather than mask your fatigue with caffeine (or with similar stimulants in tea, cola, energy drinks, supplements, or chocolate).