During these stressful periods, we also may have to stay up for longer to do what is necessary, and this is completely against what our body actually wants us to do. Tiredness comes about when our brain’s nerve cell activity starts to slow down, making us want to stop and rest or shut down at the end of the day. But in those times when this isn’t possible, we need a stimulant, a pick me up…
…Fortunately, there is an easy answer to this dilemma, and it does not involve medication: the answer is drinking some wonderfully delicious coffee!
Coffee has the innate power to keep us awake and fully alert due to caffeine, its primary constituent, which has scientifically been shown to change brain function by stopping the chemical within the brain that makes us feel sleepy, allowing us to carry on through tiredness, while feeling alert and ‘switched on’.
We get tired when adenosine, a chemical and also exercise by-product, attaches itself to specific sites in the brain, rather like a key that only fits a certain lock. When this happens, our nerve cell activity begins to slow right down, and we just cannot keep pace with what we desperately need to get done. But here coffee saves the day, because as the caffeine molecules (tiny particles) have a similar chemical structure to adenosine, they can trick the body into believing that they are adenosine molecules (and are magnetised to the adenosine sites); and just in the same way similar keys can open certain locks, they bind to the sites, and keep the adenosine that would have slowed us down, blocked out. This can then actually rev up the firing of the nerve cells within our brain.
This is recognised by the pituitary gland, which senses an emergency and responds by getting the “fight or flight” hormone adrenaline into gear which sends us into combat mode by: raising our heart beat, dilating our pupils, expanding our breathing, sending sugar into the bloodstream to give us more energy, improving muscle blood flow, and toning up our muscles. Caffeine also raises levels of the ‘feel good’ hormone dopamine, which elevates our mood and helps us put a positive spin on what we are doing.
So if we treat ourselves to a nice large mug of coffee, we feel an uplifting energy and a ripple of excitement as our mood elevates and our heart beat goes up. As the chemical adenosine also enlarges our blood vessels (which send more oxygen to allow our bodies to receive added oxygen whilst sleeping), drinking coffee means that this action is blocked by the caffeine molecules which actually narrow the blood vessels, so if we are suffering from a headache, it will be relieved. Therefore, if we drink coffee in our hours of need, we can say farewell to our headaches without taking medications which usually have unwanted side effects, and we get a fabulous burst of za-za-zoom, to stay alert and carry on!