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We Analyzed 1 Thousand Studies and Research Papers and Here’s What We Learned About the Real Effects of Caffeine on Students’ Performance

Coffee Geek Lab / We Analyzed 1 Thousand Studies and Research Papers and Here’s What We Learned About the Real Effects of Caffeine on Students’ Performance
Yurii Brown

Certified Barista

December 1, 2021

It’s hard to find a student who doesn’t drink coffee (or other caffeinated beverages).

But how does this popular brain booster really affect performance and other aspects of students’ lives?

We have analyzed around 1 thousand studies and interviewed nearly 5 thousand respondents to learn more about the effects of caffeine on student performance and productivity. We have highlighted 12 key points and statistics that can provide insights into ways coffee can affect memory, cognitive skills, thinking, and performance.

This report is going to share these findings in detail, allowing for a clearer understanding of caffeine’s role in students’ lives.

Our Findings

  1. Drinking coffee can make students perceive information better, allowing them to learn faster (1). 
  2. Coffee makes students happier, as caffeine in this and other beverages increases dopamine levels (the so-called happiness hormone) (2). 
  3. Healthy amounts of caffeine can improve one’s cognitive function and alertness, allowing students to perform better at school (3). 
  4. Caffeine consumption is proven to reduce reaction time, which means coffee can help students deal with tests easier and faster (4). 
  5. Socializing over coffee can have a positive effect on one’s academic performance (5).  
  6. Caffeine and college students statistics show that coffee breaks can be a positive contribution to one’s academic success (6). 
  7. Drinking coffee gives students more time to study and finish their assignments, as this beverage increases one’s alertness and can keep students awake to study more (7). 
  8. The majority (around 75%) of college students drink coffee regularly, making this beverage one of the top stimulants used by college undergraduates (8).  
  9. 79% of students consume coffee to achieve alertness, with 68% who also drink it because they like the taste (9). 
  10. 80% of college students claim that they are immune to the negative side effects of caffeinated beverages (10). 
  11. Caffeine can alleviate sleep deprivation symptoms, making coffee a suitable (in urgent situations) solution after pulling all-nighters in college (11).  
  12. Caffeine can make students smarter, as it has a positive effect on memory consolidation and thinking skills (12, 13).

Students Who Drink Coffee Are Likely to Learn Faster and Perceive New Information Better

Since coffee is a very common way to start a day in students’ lives, we were curious to learn more about the link between caffeine consumption and academic performance.

Research suggests that coffee intake helps increase the speed of encoding new stimuli in students. In other words, they can perceive new information easier and process the incoming data faster. 

This means that the effect of caffeine on student performance should not be neglected. By helping students respond faster to new external stimuli and process the information more effectively, a simple cup of coffee in the morning can boost their productivity and academic results.

Coffee-Drinking Students Are Happier, as Caffeine Can Increase the Production of the Happiness Hormone Called Dopamine

Academic performance often depends on students’ ability to manage stress levels. That’s why it is essential to understand how coffee consumption may affect one’s mood.

Research shows that caffeine in coffee and other beverages can positively affect the levels of dopamine, the famous happiness hormone

Caffeine attaches to the proteins that normally receive adenosine, a chemical that is responsible for that drowsy feeling. Making it easier for the body to fight those adenosine molecules, caffeine also makes it easier for dopamine to do its job, so to say. This leads to increased production of dopamine and, thus, improved mood. This might be the reason why coffee consumption is linked to decreased risk of suicide (14).

This allows us to suggest that drinking coffee (in healthy quantities, of course) can have a positive effect on students’ performance. Being in a good mood makes it easier for students to reach their academic goals or remain motivated to study. Plus, it’s another proof that caffeine consumption and academic performance are co-related.

Moderate Caffeine Consumption Can Improve Students’ Cognitive Function and Alertness, Leading to Better Results In Terms of Academic Performance

Cognitive performance goes hand in hand with academic success. After all, cognitive function includes working memory, learning abilities, attention, decision making, and visual-spatial skills. All of these aspects play a significant role in studying. 

Now, the effect of caffeine on student performance has a lot to go with how this substance affects the brain. Research shows that caffeine consumption can improve one’s cognitive skills and kind of makes them sharper. Thus, drinking coffee can help students remain alert during classes, think more clearly, memorize new information easier, stay focused, and so on.

This means a beverage as simple as coffee can serve as a boost for one’s academic abilities. That being said, most studies show positive outcomes of caffeine consumption only when the amount of coffee is moderate. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that students need to control the amount of coffee they drink daily. The optimal caffeine level is up to 400 mg per day, which is approximately five 8-ounce cups of coffee (regular drip).

Drinking Coffee Helps Students Deal with Tests and Visual/Auditory Tasks Faster

Often, making decisions fast is crucial, especially during tests with a limited timeframe. And since coffee is proven to raise alertness, we were also interested in finding out how it can help students deal with assignments that require good decision-making skills.

Studies show that caffeine, aside from increasing overall alertness, also reduces the reaction time. In fact, even little doses of caffeine showed a significant effect. As little as 32 mg can decrease one’s reaction speed, which is around half a cup of regular drip coffee.

This research on the effects of caffeine on student performance proves that coffee drinkers may find it easier to deal with time-pressing assignments and tests, especially those that involve visual and auditory tasks. Coffee can simply make students react faster. Therefore, caffeine in this beverage can combat sluggishness that often prevents students from achieving better academic results.

Drinking Coffee with Friends and Fellow Students Can Have a Positive Effect on One’s Academic Performance

While coffee can affect us physically, it’s important to remember that this beverage often serves as a base for socializing. And as it turns out, socializing over a cup of coffee can help students with their academic performance.

For instance, when getting together at coffee shops or in common rooms over a cup of hot beverage, students often discuss class matters, share ideas, read each other’s notes, talk about some difficulties they might be experiencing in school, and share insights.

Therefore, we can assume that the socializing aspect of coffee drinking can be a powerful boost for one’s academic success.

Taking Coffee Breaks Can Help Students Stay Focused and, Thus, Perform Better In School

The effect of coffee on students’ performance doesn’t have to do with caffeine only. After all, the routine itself is crucial too.

This can be proved by research that studied the effect of breaks on college students’ attention span and academic performance. The brain does not handle constant stimulation well. When receiving information for prolonged periods, it can deem it unimportant. Naturally, this means reduced attention span and difficulties focusing when studying.

Research suggests that taking breaks during study sessions can help students remain alert, concentrated, and perceive the information better. And as we know, coffee breaks are among the most common “hiatus” options when studying.

Students Have More Time to Deal with Their Assignments when Drinking Coffee

Caffeine is known to increase alertness. It can also affect the adrenaline levels in one’s body, keeping students awake when needed.

By staying awake and alert, college undergraduates get more time (in the evenings, for example) to finish their academic tasks. While not necessarily healthy, an occasional cup of coffee in the evening can help students stay awake longer and, thus, have more time to prepare for the next day and study more.

By giving students more time to prepare, coffee can help them improve their academic performance. That being said, students need to remember that caffeine can disrupt one’s sleep, so it’s better to turn to this method only in urgent situations.

75% of College Students Report Drinking Coffee Regularly

To understand how much influence caffeine has in the academic field, we need to find out what percentage of college students drink coffee.

Now, according to recent studies, 75% of surveyed college students report drinking coffee regularly. Another study shows that 40% of people aged 18-24 (a typical age frame for college undergraduates) consume coffee daily as well (15). Most of them note that they drink coffee mainly to stay awake.

This proves that caffeine (and coffee in particular) plays a significant role in students’ daily lives. Naturally, with coffee being constantly present in their routines, we can assume that this beverage plays a part in students’ academic performance as well. 

Among College Students, 79% Drink Coffee to Stay Awake and More Alert

After finding out what percentage of college students drink coffee, we were interested in discovering the main reasons behind this choice (and whether it has to do with academic performance or not).

It turns out that 79% of college undergraduates choose to drink coffee in order to stay alert and remain awake. At the same time, 68% enjoy the taste (alongside the coffee’s stimulating abilities), 39% like the social aspect of coffee drinking, and 31% also appreciate its ability to improve concentration. Only 9% of the responders claim to drink coffee in order to relieve stress.

These statistics show that caffeine consumption plays a major role in students’ academic performance. College undergraduates drink coffee to stay awake, which allows them to dedicate more time to their studies and, thus, potentially improve their academic results.

80% of Students Say They Don’t Experience Negative Side Effects of Coffee Consumption, Meaning Caffeinated Beverages Can Help with Academic Performance Without Harming One’s Health

Accounting for potential side effects of coffee consumption is crucial, given the fact how popular this beverage is among college students.

Now, 80% of college undergraduates note that they are immune to the negative side effects of caffeinated beverages. The rest say they still can experience nervousness, flushed appearance, tremors, and palpitations after drinking coffee.

These statistics can teach us two things. First, coffee can help students boost their academic results without making them experience unpleasant side effects. Second, college undergraduates still need to be very careful with caffeine. To avoid tremors, nervousness, and other side effects, students have to control the amount of coffee they consume daily. The recommended dosage of caffeine is up to 400 mg per day, which equals around 4-5 cups of brewed coffee (16).

Caffeine Can Counteract Sleep Deprivations Symptoms, Serving as a Remedy After All-Night Studying Sessions

Students often use coffee to stay awake, but can it also make them feel more alert after a sleepless night?

Research shows that caffeine in coffee can effectively alleviate such symptoms of sleep deprivation as difficulty focusing and lethargy. Caffeine can also combat cognitive degradation caused by sleep loss. This means coffee can balance out the effects of pulling an all-nighter. Therefore, drinking coffee after a night study session can potentially help students remain alert and show better academic results during the day.

However, even though coffee can help students perform better in class, it cannot protect them from the long-term health effects of sleep deprivation (17). Therefore, it’s safe to assume that students shouldn’t overindulge in late-night study sessions. 

Drinking Coffee Can Make College Students Smarter Thanks to Its Effect on Memory and Thinking Skills

Learning more about the way caffeine influences the brain, we were happy to discover that coffee has many positive long-term effects.

Research suggests that caffeine intake leads to improved memory consolidation. This means students can memorize new information better while drinking coffee (especially after a study session). 

Additionally, healthy amounts of caffeine may boost one’s thinking skills (both momentarily after drinking coffee and in the longer term). 

Naturally, being able to learn faster can have a significant impact on one’s academic achievements. Drinking coffee may also help college undergraduates understand the new materials easier, memorize fresh data better, and deal with tasks faster thanks to improved thinking skills.

Summary

The caffeine consumption by college students statistics show that coffee plays a significant role in their academic lives. Research also proves that coffee may have a positive impact on one’s performance in school, as this beverage can affect cognitive function, memory, alertness, and other factors that influence academic productivity.

How often do you drink coffee? Have you noticed any positive effects, especially in your academic performance? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Additional Resources:

  1. Carolyn F. Brice, Andrew P. Smith (December 2002). Effects of caffeine on mood and performance: A study of realistic consumption. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/11060127_Effects_of_caffeine_on_mood_and_performance_A_study_of_realistic_consumption
  2. N. D. Volkow, G-J Wang, J. Logan, D. Alexoff, J. S. Fowler, P. K. Thanos, C. Wong, V. Casado, S. Ferre, and D. Tomasi (April 14, 2015). Caffeine increases striatal dopamine D2/D3 receptor availability in the human brain. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4462609/
  3. C. H. S. Ruxton (February 13, 2008). The impact of caffeine on mood, cognitive function, performance and hydration: a review of benefits and risks. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-3010.2007.00665.x
  4. David M.Penetar, Una McCann, David Thorne, Aline Schelling, Cynthia Galinski, Helen Sing, Maria Thomas, and Gregory Belenky (1994). Food Components to Enhance Performance: An Evaluation of Potential Performance-Enhancing Food Components for Operational Rations. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK209050/
  5. Jeff Bauer (February 13, 2014). Coffee – Stimulating Studies and Socialization. Retrieved from https://blog.worldcampus.psu.edu/coffee-stimulating-studies-and-socialization/
  6. Rick Nauert (February 09, 2011). Taking Breaks Found to Improve Attention. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/09/taking-breaks-found-to-improve-attention#1
  7. Kevin Loria and Erin Brodwin (June 01, 2018). What caffeine does to your body and brain. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/physical-mental-effects-of-caffeine-2017-7
  8. Jami Bucher, Darcy Fitzpatrick, Allison Swanson, Samuel P. Abraham (2019). Retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/healthcaremanagerjournal/Abstract/2019/01000/Caffeine_Intake_Habits_and_the_Perception_of_Its.7.aspx 
  9. Caroline R. Mahoney, Grace E. Giles, Bernadette P. Marriott, Daniel A. Judelson, Ellen L. Glickman, Paula J. Geiselman, Harris R. Lieberman (April 10, 2018). Intake of caffeine from all sources and reasons for use by college students. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261561418301341 
  10. Jon Nichole Lapac, John Paul Asuero Dela Cruz, Gerise M Dela Regalado (March 2018). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343962439_EFFECTS_OF_AMOUNT_OF_CAFFEINE_LEVELS_ON_THE_TEST_SCORE_OF_COLLEGE_STUDENTS
  11. Tom M. McLellan, John A. Caldwell, Harris R. Lieberman (December 2016). A review of caffeine’s effects on cognitive, physical and occupational performance. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149763416300690
  12. Daniel Borota, Elizabeth Murray, Gizem Keceli, Allen Chang, Joseph M. Watabe, Maria Ly, John P. Toscano & Michael A. Yassa (January 12, 2014). Post-study caffeine administration enhances memory consolidation in humans. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/nn.3623
  13. Stephanie Watson (June 18, 2014). Caffeine and a healthy diet may boost memory, thinking skills; alcohol’s effect uncertain. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/caffeine-healthy-diet-may-boost-memory-thinking-skills-alcohols-effect-uncertain-201406187219
  14. Hwanjin Park, Byung Seong Suh, Kounseok Lee (September 01, 2019). Relationship between daily coffee intake and suicidal ideation. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165032719301442
  15. Nicole L. Olsen (2013). Caffeine Consumption Habits and Perceptions among University of New Hampshire Students. Retrieved from https://scholars.unh.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1102&context=honors
  16. Mayo Clinic (March 06, 2020). Caffeine: How much is too much? Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20045678
  17. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research (2006). Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19961/

Yurii Brown

3 Comments
  • rainier flores
    August 28, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    this is for a project at our school, and we would like to use this article as our reference, can we please know when was this published, and where was this made? thankyou

  • Alisha Ross
    October 22, 2020 at 5:59 am

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