Avery Boulware, Campus Carrier Editor-in-Chief
Sometimes sleep just isn’t an option. Sometimes deadlines come crashing down and you must admit defeat as you prepare for an all-nighter. It’s happened to the best of us, and it has happened to me. I know how it goes. Your eyes droop. You cannot possibly read another sentence of your textbook. You dream of a caffeine IV drip connected to your arm. It seems like the only option for achieving a passing grade on this paper or exam in front of you, but chugging an energy drink may do more harm than good in the long run.
Energy drinks contain a long list of ingredients, including added sugars, vitamins, stimulants like guarana (grown in the Amazon) and taurine (an amino acid naturally found in meat and fish) as well as L-carnitine, a substance in the body that helps turn fat into energy. Even though these ingredients are all legal and safe when isolated, scientists are continuing to study how these ingredients react with one another when combined with caffeine in the body.
According to researchers at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas in Houston, a regular intake of energy drinks can lead to increased heart rate, increased stress, increased blood pressure and thicker blood. Increased caffeine intake can also interfere with the functions of the arteries by inhibiting them from dilating properly.
Caffeine in doses up to 400 mg, which is about five cups of coffee, is considered safe by the Food and Drug association. Most energy drinks have between 100 and 300 mg. But the caffeine alone may not be the most dangerous ingredient. Researchers at the Journal of the American Heart Association conducted a study with 18 healthy men and women. They were first observed after consuming a popular (unnamed) energy drink and then after consuming another drink with the same amount of caffeine but none of the other ingredients. Both drinks contained 320 mg of caffeine, the equivalent of four cups of coffee. The energy drink in the study also contained four ounces of sugar, several B vitamins and an “energy blend” of taurine and other ingredients found in drinks like Monster, Red Bull and 5-Hour Energy. The participants blood pressure increased by almost 5 points after drinking the energy drinks, and remained elevated six hours later. This was not the case with the caffeine drink.
This is a small study, and researchers agree that there needs to be more information on the effects of caffeine versus other stimulants in energy drinks. But there are undoubtedly healthier options to keep you awake during your next all-nighter. By fueling your body with healthy snacks, like granola bars or fruit, you will stay alert without feeling sick or bloated.
Other ways to stay alert include getting up and moving. Take a short walk, do some stretches or go visit a friend’s dorm room for a chat.
Staring at a computer screen can put a strain on the eyes, making them even heavier than they already are when the body is sleep-deprived. Depending on what homework you are doing, try to alternate between on-screen and off-screen work. This variety can also help wake up the brain.
Sometimes the only fix for accidentally nodding off is to take a quick nap. A short nap, between five and 25 minutes, is best if you don’t want to wake up feeling groggy.
Ideally, none of us will have to pull an all-nighter this year. I wish everyone a well-rested year. But, realistically, this will not be the case. We all know the work load the school year will eventually bring. So, remember these tips, take care of yourself, ace that test and then get some sleep.