COLUMN: Stop relying on caffeine so much

Caffeine is an integral part of American society. A poll recently found that 64 percent of adults in the United States have a daily cup of coffee. This is the highest percentage since 2012. While it is no secret that Americans love their coffee, the number of caffeinated products hitting the shelves has been increasing.

Walk into Wilkie C-Store, and you will find caffeinated chocolate bars and granola bars.  There is a coffee on the market, Death Wish Coffee, that relies on its branding as the coffee with the highest caffeine content. GoPuff even sells a caffeine vape, so you can get that extra kick of caffeine throughout the day. 

What does it say about our society that coffee isn’t enough to keep us awake by itself? Caffeine is not an adequate substitute for sleep, yet Americans treat it like liquid REM. The influx of these caffeinated products into the market shows the lack of importance placed on getting a good night’s sleep.

There is a problem with our culture idealizing a schedule that involves late nights and early mornings. Someone who forgoes sleep in favor of getting an extra few hours of studying in is seen as the better student than the one who has a strict 11:00 p.m. bedtime. 

Part of this is because, in our society, our worth is tied directly to how productive we are on a daily basis. We are expected to bring work home with us and to constantly live and breathe work, whether it be our work at a job or as a student. Sleep, a period of hours spent doing nothing, besides lying in bed unconscious, directly contradicts the productivity society praises. That time unconscious could be much better spent churning out another report.

After a short night’s sleep, people are expected to get up and be in top shape every day. For this reason, people turn to caffeine. The widespread appeal and availability of caffeine is very convenient and drives home the belief that sleep is optional. 

To clarify, this is not an anti-caffeine rant. I own a caffeine vape as a temporary remedy for my chronic fatigue. It is not the fault of caffeine that people use it as a replacement for sleep. People need to know that nothing can replace a good night’s sleep.

Sleep deprivation has a slew of negative side effects, including delayed reaction time and decreased brain function. These symptoms persist regardless of the amount of caffeine consumed. Caffeine definitely doesn’t help mitigate the long-term effects of sleep deprivation, which includes stroke, diabetes and hypertension. 

With effects such as these, sleep deprivation should be taken more seriously in American society. A good night’s sleep should be emphasized as an integral part of everyone’s life. It should not be the expectation to prioritize work over your own health. 

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