This Is How Caffeine Really Affects Your Brain

Many people rely on caffeine to get through the day. This stimulant is considered a relatively safe way to increase your energy levels for a period of time. But how exactly does caffeine affect your brain? Here's what you should know.

According to How Stuff Works, caffeine works by targeting your central nervous system. Specifically, it binds to the adenosine receptors in the brain, blocking adenosine from performing its normal function of causing drowsiness. Adenosine also slows down nerve cell function to allow more oxygen into your brain while you sleep. When caffeine binds to these receptors instead, the nerve cells speed up instead of slowing down. This gives you a boost of energy.

When your nerve cells increase their activity, your pituitary gland is also triggered because it believes there is an emergency happening that your body needs to be ready for. The gland then releases hormones that produce adrenaline, which puts your body in the "fight or flight" mode. This then causes your heart rate to increase, your pupils to dilate, and your blood pressure to rise.

Is caffeine safe?

A moderate consumption of caffeine is considered to be generally safe. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that adults consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day to avoid negative side effects (via Medical News Today).

People who consume high amounts of caffeine may be at risk for certain side effects. Caffeine may worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression in people who already have the respective mental illnesses. People with type 2 diabetes may also see their blood pressure levels increase after consuming the stimulant. People who are pregnant should avoid drinking more than 200 mg of caffeine per day, as amounts higher than this have been shown to increase the risk of delayed fetal growth, abnormal fetal heart rhythm, or loss of pregnancy.

Even if you have no health conditions that may be affected by caffeine, you should monitor your body's response to the drug when consuming it. If you feel restless, jittery, anxious, nervous, or experience any other negative side effects when drinking caffeine, consider reducing your consumption.