Why doesn't coffee make you sleepy?  It could be your body's fault.

Why doesn’t coffee make you sleepy? It could be your body’s fault.

An individual’s genetics can prevent coffee from fulfilling the purpose of giving energy, taking away sleep, helping with concentration, among other effects.

If for many coffee is an energy booster and even fundamental to be able to face daily challenges, as it takes away sleep and allows a greater ability to concentrate, for others it does not fulfill this purpose or even has the opposite effect.

Coffee “has a very interesting chemical complexity” and impacts everyone’s body in different ways, explains Conceição Calhau to CNN Portugal, professor of Nutrition at NOVA Medical School. “Effects of drinking coffee are the result of a set of substances with biological activity and their interaction”, she stresses.

That is, it is also a matter of genetics. The difference between individuals lies, among other factors, not so common or known, in the ability to metabolize the components of coffee, in the number of neurotransmitters available to receive caffeine and in the power of coupling between these neurotransmitters and the chemical compound.

As the day unfolds, the body produces adenosine, one of those responsible for sleep. When binding to the brain’s receptors, this organic compound releases gamma-aminobutyric acid (also known by the English acronym GABA), which inhibits the nervous system, causing tiredness. This is the cycle – called the “circadian rhythm” – responsible for keeping us awake during the day and sleepiness at night.

Caffeine – when it works – will delay this cycle.

According to Professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Coimbra, Manuela Grazina, caffeine is an adenosine antagonist, that is, it blocks the release of GABA and “triggers stimulating effects”, resulting in increased energy and a feeling of well-being. .

However, the also researcher at the Center for Neurosciences and Cell Biology (CNC) in Coimbra explains that certain genetic variants cannot produce enough neurotransmitters to receive caffeine or those that do not allow the connection to take place.

Another point where genetics plays a role in this matter is the metabolizing capacity of enzymes. The process of metabolizing will define how much caffeine reaches the brain, as well as how quickly, triggering a stronger or weaker effect.

Genetics can also affect the biological cycle itself. “The ‘clock genes’ make there is tuning, or not, between the chronogens [os genes associados aos relógios biológicos] and exposure to caffeine and sleep”, adds Conceição Calhau.

Daniel Vieira Luís, researcher at HeartGenetics, Genetics and Biotchnology SA, also points out “other factors that influence caffeine metabolism, increasing it – tobacco smoke, cruciferous vegetables and proton pump inhibitors such as Omeprazole – or decreasing it ( oral contraceptives, fluoroquinolones[associado a antibióticos]and the SSRI fluvoxamine [associado a antidepressivos])”.

Body may be adapting to caffeine

For those who can rely on daily cups of coffee to face the day, it is important to say that caffeine does not eliminate adenosine from the body. Caffeine just blocks the natural process, as if masking the intrinsic function of adenosine. In this way, the cells continue to produce it and adenosine accumulates in the body. The moment the caffeine wears off, the drowsiness effect will consequently be stronger.

“Once the caffeine wears off, you get a very high level of sleep pressure,” says Seth Blackshaw, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University in the United States, quoted by The New York Times.

And over time, the effects of coffee may cease to have an impact, argue some experts. This is due to an adaptation, which makes the body tolerant to the action of caffeine.

“The neurochemical mechanisms are absolutely extraordinary and fascinating. The brain adapts, the genome adapts to be translated, in order to work with the presence of certain components and adjusts itself”, emphasizes researcher Manuela Grazina. The proteins responsible for decomposition can also begin to multiply more quickly, affecting the amount of caffeine that reaches the brain.

The solution to this problem is not, however, to increase the number of doses, as it can have harmful effects on health. “You don’t need to continually increase doses, because there is a limit to the effects, the biological and metabolic structural space has a limit”, warns Grazina.

Neuroscientist Seth Blackshaw recommends, for example, that you stop drinking coffee for a while to cleanse your body of caffeine. Then you can gradually re-enter it.

However, at the end of the day, the ideal formula to fight fatigue is respecting sleep cycles and sleeping the necessary hours, replenishing energy levels. Also the practice of exercise or exposure to the sun contributes to a better rest.

Strong dependence on caffeine can also have other effects, such as headaches, which are symptoms associated with deprivation, recalls the researcher at the Center for Neurosciences and Cell Biology in Coimbra.

Therefore, argues Professor Mark Stein, from the US University of Washington, “adequate sleep and physical activity are the first-line interventions for attention problems and drowsiness.” “Caffeine is a useful supplement, but you shouldn’t want to become dependent. her”, he warns.

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