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June 13, 2018

Are you drinking the right amount of coffee?

New research shows coffee drinkers when – and how much caffeine – to consume to maximize alertness

Healthy Eating Caffeine
IBXStock_Carroll - Coffee Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Coffee is prepared at a shop in Philadelphia.

How much caffeine do you need to counteract the effects of sleep loss? And when should you consume it to maximize alertness? 

Thanks to medical researchers working for the U.S. Army, coffee drinkers – and consumers of energy drinks and sodas, for that matter – may soon have a new tool to help them maximize the effects of caffeine to combat sleep deprivation.

A new algorithm claims to help coffee drinkers improve alertness by 64 percent – all while consuming the same amount of caffeine, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command in Fort Detrick in Maryland. 

Conversely, a coffee drinker can reduce caffeine consumption by up to 65 percent and still achieve the same improvement in alertness.

Users plug their sleep schedule into the algorithm, as well as their overall caffeine limit. In turn, the algorithm provides a dosing schedule designed to maximize caffeine effectiveness.

"Our algorithm is the first quantitative tool that provides automated, customized guidance for safe and effective caffeine dosing to maximize alertness at the most needed times during any sleep-loss condition," lead researcher Jaques Reifman said in a statement.

Specifically, researchers used a mathematical model to predict the effects of sleep loss and caffeine on psychomotor vigilance task performance – tasks that include pressing a button as soon as a light appears. They combined that with an algorithm designed to determine a caffeine dosing schedule.

The study, published in the Journal of Sleep Research, was presented earlier this month at the annual meeting of Associated Professional Sleep Societies – a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.