Kenneth Wright Jr., senior researcher involved in the new study and circadian clock expert at the University of Colorado, said that coffee at night does not only help you stay awake during late hours but it also affects nearly every cell of your body because it has a disruptive effect on the cells’ internal rhythms.
And disturbing the natural circadian rhythms makes you want to go to sleep as well as wake up later, researchers noted. Dr. Wright explained that all cells have their own internal clocks.
Scientist were inspired to conduct a study on coffee’s effects on the body’s internal clock by a series of research papers that had found a significant link between caffeine consumption and changes in the body clocks of lab mice and fruit flies.
Wright’s team asked five people to take part in a study for more than 49 days. Some volunteers were asked to take the equivalent of a double espresso three hours before sleep time, while other volunteers were exposed to bright light during nighttime to see whether there is a change in their body clock. Bright light, study authors noted, also has the potential of disturbing the body’s internal clock
The study revealed that caffeine supplements delayed the body’s internal clock by 40 minutes, while bright light had the same effect but only for 20 minutes. Scientists were surprised with the findings because the amount of caffeine they gave participants was relatively small for most people.
Wright said that the effect was substantial compared to the given amount of caffeine. Study authors believe that caffeine interferes with cells’ method of communication to one another. And this leads to a major disruption in the body’s internal clock.
Jamie Zeitzer, a psychiatry professor at Stanford University, was content with the new findings. He said that the recent study is one of the few to point out that coffee at night does not only help people stay awake longer but it does so by masking the need for sleep.
Zeiter also said that the study is too small (only five participants) to say something about the general population. Additionally, the study didn’t reveal a significant difference between caffeine and bright light when trying to treat jet lag. Yet caffeine has great potential because its ability of adjusting body clocks.
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