For those of you who suffer from anxiety and shy away from caffeine consumption in hopes of avoiding anxiety attacks, you might want to listen up.
When consuming high levels of caffeine the brains receptors for adenosine are blocked, tricking the mind into thinking it is less tired than it would be if caffeine was not present. For many years I would sit in anticipation of anxiety before even consuming the first sip of my coffee, thinking there would a huge rush of excitatory enzymes pumping through my veins, an almost amphetamine like stimulation to my brain. This is all wrong, and the anxiety once again originates from my excessive analysis and negative anticipation thought patterns and beliefs and not caused the caffeine itself. In reality what happens is the receptors that would usually bind with adenosine are now binding with caffeine. So the body thinks it has more energy to respond to the world than usual.
Now What is Adenosine you ask?
“Adenosine is partly a by-product of the cells’ energy expenditure. As our cells produce power to move us through the day, adenosine is released into the bloodstream and taken up by receptors in the brain region that governs wakefulness (the basal forebrain). There, it acts like a dimmer switch, turning down many of the processes associated with wakefulness, such as attention, memory, and reactions to physical stimuli. As brain levels of adenosine mount, we feel drowsier. (Caffeine keeps us awake by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain.) When we sleep, our energy needs fall, and the level of circulating adenosine drops. After a good night’s sleep, the level is at its lowest, and we are most alert.” For more information on how it impacts your sleep cycle, click here.
What Happens When Caffeine Dissipates?
So, when you are feeling sleepy it is the increasing concentration of adenosine that is rising, telling your body you need to take a time out and recharge your system. We usually think to ourselves, “oh, here comes the caffeine crash”, but all that is happening is the caffeine in your system is wearing off and the receptors are free to bind with the naturally produced adenosine molecules. The body does not stop producing the chemical while the receptors are binding with the caffeine molecules, so when the receptors are free again they are flooded with adenosine. Your brain then reacts telling you to shut down and go to sleep.
What Can You Do To Reduced Adenosine?
Thinking twice about your coffee experience now?