Overview

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  • It is well recognized that drinking coffee contributes to increased wakefulness and alertness. Most of the work on coffee consumption and mental performance focuses on caffeine.
  • There is convincing evidence that moderate caffeine intake helps to improve alertness and attention (concentration). The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that a cause and effect relationship can be established between a 75mg serving of caffeine (a typical cup of coffee contains around 75-100mg caffeine) and both increased attention and alertness.
  • Caffeine can cause sleep disturbances in some people. However, a large variation in the effects of caffeine on sleep is seen between individuals, and genetic differences are known to play a role. There are some indications that caffeine abstinence could improve sleep, in the context of sleep quality and time taken to fall asleep.
  • There is some evidence to suggest potential benefits of coffee and caffeine in situations that require increased alertness, e.g. night shifts, long distance driving, and jet lag.
  • Brain mapping technology indicates that caffeine is not linked to the brain circuit of dependence.
  • Abrupt cessation of caffeine consumption may induce withdrawal symptoms in a subset of the population: however, these are usually mild, of short duration, and can be avoided by gradually reducing caffeine intake.

The content in this Topic Overview was last edited in July 2016. Papers in the Latest Research section and further resources are added regularly.

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