Caffeinated Zombies


(A view from outside the busy cafe filled with studying students and chatting friends)

Caffeine as a way to accomplish requirements

As the end of the semester nears its end, students of the University of the Philippines, Los Banos, comes face to face with their most difficult challenges as students. Like Charles Darwin’s Survival of the fittest, college students are tested with not only their academic knowledge but also their life skills and abilities to cope with tons of workload and stress. Students at an alarming rate are being sent to the university infirmary for sicknesses due to sleep deprivation and palpitations from excess caffeine consumption. With all the papers students have to do and exams they have to study for, the 24 hours we were given in a day is definitely not enough.

Being resourceful and intelligent, each and every student handles this phenomenon called the hell week differently. Some students manage their schedules well, some study all night and most of them, crams everything the night before the deadline. A student from the college of human economics, Shane Arizala was one of those students who stayed up all night to finish her requirements, most of the time she was fine with the multiple intakes of her favorite energy drink, but the first time she opted to drink more than her usual 2 cans, she knew something was not right. She was immediately sent to the infirmary and was advised to get some rest and to drink lots of water.

(Children rushes to the counter to order their drinks)

Health risks accompanying caffeine intake

Dr. Sumague, an expert in food safety and nutrition, also a faculty member of the college of agriculture UPLB explains that energy drinks and coffee have the same ingredient that is keeping our bodies awake even without sleep, caffeine. These drinks although has different percentage of caffeine in their makeup, both has the ability to keep our bodies energized for a short period of time. Energy drinks and coffee in all of its glory was only supposed to be consumed one can at a time, this serving capacity is enough to keep your mind awake for the next few hours, exceed that limit and there are surely some unwanted effects, she warned. Shane experienced palpitations and uncontrollable shaking, she also felt dehydrated, something she did not want to experience again.

(For more Health risks and side effects, check out: Caffeine Health risks)


Sleep deprivation and what it does to you

Aside from these health risks, another form of caffeine’s side effects was sleep deprivation. Professor Jholyan Fornillos, a psychology professor, shared based from his experience about how caffeine would destroy our body’s sleep cycle. “Drinking energy drinks or coffee might help the student accomplish all of the requirements that are due but what they don’t know is that this habit is affecting how much sleep they will get and how they are pushing their bodies to their limits”, said Prof. Fornillos. “The palpitation is the body’s way of telling us that we’ve had too much and that we have to get some rest”. He added. Also sharing how sleep deprivation is a topic that they discuss in their Psychology 1 class under Taking care of oneself as the main topic.

Another student from UPLB, Joannah, a sophomore shares how she tackled 2 exams in one day, side by side with reaction papers and math exercises. “I wasn’t able to sleep and I had been awake for more than 24 hours already. I have consumed more than 5 cups of coffee, luckily I wasn’t sent to the infirmary but I can feel that something is definitely wrong with my body. I need sleep but my subjects won’t allow me”, she jokes.

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(Freshly brewed cappuccino, another cup to keep the mind awake.)

Keeping our minds and bodies awake and energized

After all that has been said, how then can we keep ourselves awake if we decide to stay away from caffeine? Ms. Mariz Baluyot, a student taking up food technology and a member of a Nutrition organization in UPLB shares her knowledge about staying awake. According to her, the student opting to take the all-nighter road must make sure he/she has eaten. “Fruits and vegetables are good choices; apples are especially effective for keeping the mind and body awake. Consuming fruits is also better because it will not give the body any side effects and it is filled with vitamins that the body needs”. She claimed. Adding also that if necessary, the person should try working out and exercising. This would wake the brain and give our bodies heat that would keep us energized and functioning. Drinking coffee or energy drinks is definitely inevitable but there is no harm with making sure that we take just the right amount.


Online caffeine consumption calculator

The caffeine informer, an online reference website talks mainly about caffeine, consumption and tips says that our bodies could only handle 1-2 cups of coffee or cans of energy drinks. The average coffee has 180mg of caffeine and more for bigger sizes and the energy drink on the other hand has 160mg of caffeine. This means that if we go beyond these numbers, there is definitely a price to pay. Our daily nutrition also gets affected as we consume these amounts of caffeine so we should take caution and make sure we keep track of what we drink and eat. Caffeine Informer can also help you because it has this tool that can calculate a person’s preferred amount of caffeine consumption per day that takes into consideration the person’s body weight and the type of drink.


Weighing our priorities

Changing a habit is certainly difficult for most of us, especially if it has been helping you through your toughest situations. Most of the time we keep on being dependent on these habits but if this is hurting us like a double edged sword then is it still worth the risk? Being students we must make sure that we achieve and deliver the expectations that are projected unto us but if the price of getting a good grade is getting sick or worse being unable to function then we must weigh our options well and decide what we must prioritize. Caffeine is definitely a life hack that each and every one of us should take advantage of, but remember; too much of anything is bad. And you wouldn’t want to trade your health over whatever risks too much caffeine has.

(Student busily writes her report as her deadline is almost up)



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