Yesterday I drank a rather large cup of coffee after only having 5.5 hours of sleep. I don’t think I will be doing this again. My desire to sleep was not quashed and despite some very real attempts to get much needed sleep, I could not. What I needed to do was to wait for my body to metabolise the caffeine. I finally fell into restful sleep at some point around 2:00AM this morning.
German Chemist, Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge isolated caffeine from coffee in 1820 In 1821, three French Chemists, Pierre Jean Robiquet, Pierre Joseph Pelletier and Joseph Bienaimé Caventou, working independently also isolated caffeine from coffee. Pelletier decided to refer to his extraction of the alkaloid, “cafeine”, (from which caffeine is derived), as it had been isolated from coffee for which in French is café.
The consumption of caffeine has been traced back to the Stone Age. There is evidence to suggest that early humans chewed on the seeds, bark and leaves of plants that eased fatigue and stimulated awareness. It wasn’t until much later that these effects of caffeine could be increased by steeping these materials from plants in hot water. There are many stories in folklore attributing the discovery of plants containing caffeine to notable people in history.
The Chinese have a popular tale telling of Emperor Shennong‘s accidental discovery of tea. In 2737 BC, tea leaves from a fire containing tea twigs were lifted up by rising hot air landing in his cauldron of boiling water. The result was a fragrant drink with restorative properties. It was the first cup, (perhaps cauldron), of tea.
An Ethiopian story from the ninth century tells of a goatherder, Kaldi observing his herd of goats being restless and even began jumping after grazing on coffee shrubs. He tried the berries of the shrubs and experienced a sense of vitality and rushed to tell an Islamic holy man in a nearby monastery. The holy man disapproved of their use and threw the berries into a fire creating an enticing aroma. The roasted berries were recovered from the embers, ground up and steeped in water creating the world’s first cup of coffee.
Today, coffee and tea are available from the shelves of supermarkets as well as an ever growing number of highly caffeinated energy drinks. And it’s not just drinks that contain caffeine. There’s food too like chocolate, desserts and even breakfast cereals and more recently I have noticed caffeine being added to cosmetic products.
Yesterday, I decided to drink 473mL of coffee to see what effect the caffeine would have on my sleep deprived state.
1) Four teaspoons of sugar and four teaspoons of instant coffee were placed into a ceramic replica of a Starbucks Grande size take away coffee cup. It has the capacity of holding 16 fl oz which is approximately 473mL of liquid.
2) Hot water at a temperature of 100 degrees Celsius was added to about 80% capacity of the cup.
3) Cold milk straight out from the fridge was then poured into the cup such that the volume reached an approximate 90% capacity.
4) Contents were stirred.
5) The coffee was then consumed over the space of an hour.
A record of activities after drinking the stupidly large amount of coffee.
1st hour: I felt less tired and I was able to read through a few journal articles, news reports compose a blog post and tweet.
2nd hour: Despite making good progress on my blog post, many typos were made. It felt that my mind was going faster than what my fingers could keep up with.
3rd hour: When speaking with friends on the phone, they noticed that I was speaking much faster than usual.
4th hour: Although I had a couple of glasses of water in a 330mL glass, I began to notice that I was craving refrigerated water. the water I was drinking was at around 4 degrees celsius.
5th hour: I feel tired and I attempt to get some sleep. Despite darkening the room and wearing an eye mask, I was far too alert. I gave up trying to sleep after a frustrating 20 minutes.
6th hour: Wide awake. Unable to concentrate on anything. Journal articles that were easily understood hours earlier are nothing but incomprehensible text on a page.
7th hour: Still wide awake. My mood is wavering between elation and grumpiness.
8th hour: I decide to stop attempting any activity needing a high degree of cognitive ability. For the first time in a long time, I switched on the television to watch it. My brain seemed to need stimulation even though it wasn’t able to do anything useful with it.
10th hour: It took TWO attempts to wash my dinner plate. First attempt, I was going so fast I didn’t manage to apply detergent sufficiently over the greasy areas. My second attempt was much slower and I needed to concentrate to do a normal and very basic domestic task.
After the 10th hour: I stopped taking records as I was trying desperately to go to sleep. I spent much of it either in front of the television or on Twitter. I finally went to sleep at around 2:00AM.
Looking at my records of what I went through and comparing it to this curve I definitely match the positive trend. I do recall periods of high productivity and after reading the summaries I made on the journal articles during this period are fair and reasonable. No brilliant conclusions made but productivity was present.
I am someone who is sensitive to caffeine and the amount I ingested yesterday is well beyond the amount I normally have. It was not surprising how my body responded to it which was rapid. Initially I was able to do some work but by mid afternoon I couldn’t do anything. I tried numerous times to read media reports and found that I could not understand anything that had been written.
And given that, I decided not to cook dinner. One experiment for the day was enough and it had diminished my ability to interpret written words. I wasn’t going to risk messing with written instructions. I experienced periods of irritability. These were directly related to being unable to concentrate or unable to multitask. I really felt that I was not getting anything done.
There was definitely none of this happening:
I finally fell asleep at around 2:00AM this morning but to be honest the falling sleep was akin to collapsing from sheer exhaustion. I woke up today after 7.5 hours of sleep feeling rested. I also had a slight headache with I suspect is due to caffeine withdrawal, (Point 4 specifically but there is also a lot of interesting information there as well). I have stayed away from caffeine today. And the only thing I’ve drunk is water.
I can’t see myself doing anything like this to myself again. And if I do, I’m going to need to enlist someone else to make the observations and make accurate measurements along the way. It was fun though I am grateful that I did not need to do anything important yesterday.
Yes, this post does exceed 500 words although it is the shortest and worst referenced lab write up that I have ever done. However, you can’t complain about not knowing what it was that I did or how I did it.