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Is Caffeine Killing Your EQ?

September 20, 2012

By Vanessa Radatus

For many, coffee is a crucial and much-look-forwarded to part of the day. The strong, distinct aroma of coffee and the feeling of gripping a hot cup on a cool September morning just can’t be beat. It makes you alert, energized and some studies suggest it even improves cognitive task performance-  memory, attention span, etc.

But only in the short-term.

New research from Johns Hopkins Medical School shows that an increase in brain performance after having caffeine is the result of caffeine drinkers experiencing a short-term reversal of caffeine withdrawal.  In essence, coming down from caffeine reduces your emotional intelligence (EQ) and the only way to get back to normal is to drink more.

The article “Caffeine: The Silent Killer of Emotional Intelligence,” in Forbes presents interesting findings on caffeine and it’s effects on the brain. Not only does it lower our performance when we come off our “caffeine high” but it also triggers adrenaline which can cause irritability and anxiety. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University stated that “large doses of caffeine raise blood pressure, stimulate the heart, and produce rapid shallow breathing, which readers of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 know deprives the brain of the oxygen needed to keep your thinking calm and rational.”

On top of it all, caffeine can create an ongoing cycle of fatigue and low performance.

“Caffeine has a six-hour half-life, which means it takes a full twenty-four hours to work its way out of your system. Have a cup of joe at eight a.m., and you’ll still have 25% of the caffeine in your body at eight p.m. Anything you drink after noon will still be at 50% strength at bedtime. Any caffeine in your bloodstream—with the negative effects increasing with the dose—makes it harder to fall asleep.When you do finally fall asleep, the worst is yet to come. Caffeine disrupts the quality of your sleep by reducing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the deep sleep when your body recuperates and processes emotions. When caffeine disrupts your sleep, you wake up the next day with an emotional handicap.” Read More…

So when we wake up feeling exhausted after a normal eight hour sleep cycle, we wonder why but then naturally, grab a cup of joe to start our day. While the article is not necessarily suggesting to stop drinking coffee altogether, it’s explains why it’s important to regulate our caffeine intake because it can negatively affect our mood, brain performance, and sleep cycle.

In an equally interesting article, “What Caffeine Really Does to Your Brain,” the author David DiSalvo talks about his experience after he stopped drinking coffee altogether and the research he found along the way.

“What caffeine does do is one heck of an impersonation. In your brain, caffeine is the quintessential mimic of a neurochemical called adenosine…Your nervous system monitors adenosine levels through receptors, particularly the A1 receptor that is found in your brain and throughout your body. As the chemical passes through the receptors, your adenosine tab increases until your nervous system pays it off by putting you to sleep. The remarkable talent of caffeine is to mimic adenosine’s shape and size, and enter the receptors without activating them. The neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate, the brain’s own home-grown stimulants, are freer to do their stimulating work with the adenosine tab on hold, and that’s the effect you feel not long after downing your triple shot skinny mochachino.” Read More…

The coffee debate has been going on for years and both sides make solid arguments based on thorough research. Ultimately, it just may be that coffee, like all things, is best enjoyed in moderation.

One Comment leave one →
  1. mikebudd2012 permalink
    November 10, 2012 11:34 am

    Hello Vanessa,
    Thanks for your info and for drawing attention on this good article by Travis Bradberry.
    I did a comment on his article to say that coffee can be great in moderation, and to explain that we have no medical evidence since observational studies have to be conducted, not interventional studies:
    Travis corrected this sentence: “Caffeine is “natural” (part of nature), and like all things in nature, a little is a health-promoter, a lot is a health-negative.” by saying that not “all things” in nature are good for us ;)
    Cheers, Mike

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