Caffeine is a college student’s best friend—easily accessible in coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, food items and medications. While a fresh cup of coffee may seem harmless in the moment, overconsumption can lead to dangerous effects on an individual’s health. Many college students relying on caffeine have found that it negatively impacts their mental health.
Though the beverages may seem appealing during study sessions, the aftereffects have caused negative effects to some consumers. Caffeine contains addictive properties leading to physical dependency. A physical dependency on caffeine can cause severe headaches, nausea, muscle aches, irritability and difficulty sleeping. While many consumers use caffeine to gain energy, it has been shown to heighten anxiety for some individuals.
Students like Tyler Conradie, business management freshman, chooses not to consume caffeine because it negatively impacts his sleeping schedule.
“Every time I try to drink caffeine, I always end up regretting it,” Conradie said. “It makes me jittery, anxious, nauseous and I can’t ever fall asleep at night.”
Restlessness, accelerated heart rate, difficulty sleeping, headaches and dizziness are just a few of the harmful impacts from consuming caffeine. Caffeine intake could be worsening the current mental health crisis in college students.
Caffeine is easily accessible to students on a college campus leading many students to develop a dependence on energy drinks. At Texas State University, students can purchase caffeine from vending machines, food courts and dining halls across campus. Student workers like Nichaela Shaheen, The University Star news editor, relies on energy drinks to manage her workload.
“I consume energy drinks on occasions when I have a heavy workload and not enough energy to see all my tasks at through,” Shaheen said. “It gives me a boost to accomplish all the things I need to in a timely manner.”
In attempt to manage a heavy workload, many students are relying on caffeine to help them accomplish daily tasks. Texas State University has energy drinks accessible to students all across the San Marcos campus. With such easy accessibility, Shaheen has grown dependent on caffeine to balance her busy schedule between school, work, extracurriculars and social events.
“Since being in college I have noticed my energy fluctuates a lot more than before,” Shaheen said. “Some days I wake up ready to take on the world, others I need help from coffee or Red Bull to get out of my apartment.”
Despite an increase in overall energy and productivity level, research shows it can be helpful to reduce caffeine intake for physical health. Caffeine has been shown to increase blood pressure levels and the risk for cardiovascular disease. Increasing caffeine intake can lead to heighted anxiety and insomnia, as well. Removing caffeine from your diet can increase nutrient absorption levels and improve digestion.
Students like Marisa Nunez, electronic media junior, recognize the accessibility of energy drinks across campus and actively tries to limit her overall intake.
“I don’t think my energy levels have changed but my caffeine tolerance has,” Nunez said. “I never want to be dependent so there are days where I don’t consume any caffeine.”
Research shows focusing on healthier alternatives to caffeine can improve the physical, emotional and mental health of students. Creating a healthy sleep schedule is crucial in balancing energy levels. ATP, the body’s energy molecule, enhances during deep sleep resulting in an increase in energy levels, according to experts. Texas State professor, Daniel Seed, recognizes the busy lives of college students and the difficulties that arise when students lack sleep.
“My advice would be to make sleep a priority, which is easier said than done,” Seed said. “While we all want to be with friends and do things, sometimes you have to step back and realize that there will be another time to do that, especially if you’re in a sleep deficit.”
Along with getting enough sleep, eating an adequate diet and reducing stress levels have been shown to naturally increase energy levels. Reducing intake of processed foods, drinking water, limiting sugar and alcohol use can increase energy throughout the day, as well.
Alicia Rosas, Health Promotion Specialist, encourages students to remain cautious of their caffeine intake and limit the consumed amount.
“Caffeine can build a tolerance in the body, so it is important to understand that physical symptoms of caffeine withdrawal will be unpleasant, but over the long term the reduced caffeine consumption will benefit the body by lowering blood pressure, decreasing the stress response, and increasing the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, feeling rested,” Rosas said.
While energy drinks can provide a short-lived boost in energy, caffeine has many negative impacts on consumers. Caffeine has been shown to harm the physical, emotional and mental health of consumers.