It can typically go without saying that espresso is a wake-up favorite for millions. But, if you are one to reach for that shot of espresso first thing in the morning, you might be wondering if it wakes you up, or is there something else going on?
In general, the high caffeine content in espresso can wake up the nervous system, regulate metabolism, boost memory, increase alertness, and stimulate the brain. But the impact of caffeine has its limits.
Espressos are well known for having just the right amount of caffeine to power you through the morning. But are they all that they’re cracked up to be? We’ve got the answer for you below, and it might not be exactly what you’d expect.
Will a Shot of Espresso Keep Me Awake?
Espresso acts as a stimulant for many people, giving them the morning wake-up they seek. It can stimulate the brain and wake up the nervous system, allowing you to be more alert and take on whatever tasks the day might have for you. However, there are a few circumstances in which espresso won’t give you the results you may be hoping for.
How Does Espresso Help Wake You Up?
Your body produces a chemical called adenosine, which rises during the day while you are awake, making you tired as the day goes on. Those levels drop once you fall asleep. The caffeine in espresso blocks our brain’s adenosine receptors, preventing the chemical from making us feel tired.
Caffeine also builds up adrenaline supply, dopamine, and serotonin. This increases heart rate and has a feel-good effect on the body, helping us focus and feel alert.
Once you’ve drunk your morning espresso, the effects of caffeine will usually start kicking in after about 15 minutes and can last about five hours. However, each person is different, and this will vary based on how quickly you metabolize the caffeine.
Does Espresso Work Better Than Coffee
Espresso has a fairly high amount of caffeine and is one of the fastest ways to ingest a lot of it at one time. While there are many variables that determine how much caffeine is in espresso (brand, type of bean, the way it’s prepared, etc.), a standard 1-ounce shot has about 60 to 75mg of caffeine. A regular cup of coffee, on the other hand, has about 95mg.
For those looking for a quick dose of caffeine without all the extra liquid, espresso is a great alternative to coffee. However, depending on the size of your drink, a cup of coffee can give you more caffeine if you prefer to nurse throughout the morning.
Why Doesn’t Caffeine Wake Me Up?
While espresso can act as a great pick-me-up, it isn’t a magical fix-all, especially if you are low on sleep. A 2021 study from the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition found that though caffeine can stimulate the nervous system, mixed with sleep deprivation, it may only help with simple tasks and impair performance on more complex problems.
The longer you are awake, the more adenosine your body will produce. Now, this doesn’t mean that a double-shot of espresso won’t help you get through that all-nighter, but after a few consecutive nights of little sleep, caffeine might not have much of an effect.
Why Does Espresso Stop Working?
If you’re used to having a few cups of coffee or espresso a day, and you’re not feeling that much-needed jolt anymore, you might have reached the point of caffeine dependence. Having too much daily caffeine can bog your brain down, creating feelings of depression, anxiety, and fatigue.
Caffeine wakes you up by temporarily blocking adenosine receptors, but this doesn’t actually stop the production of adenosine in the body. This is why people typically experience a crash as the caffeine starts to wear off.
Going even further, research shows that regular caffeine consumption actually increases the production of adenosine receptors, causing us to build up a tolerance to caffeine over time. The good news is that you can easily overcome this by reducing your caffeine intake for a while to allow your body to reset.
Waking Up with Espresso - The Verdict
If you’re reaching for espresso to kick start your morning or keep you going through the afternoon slump, you can typically expect reliable results. But remember, keep an eye on how much and how often you are drinking it, so you don’t build up a tolerance.
Even if it doesn’t always give you the wake-up you are hoping for, that coffee shop aroma is sure to have a positive effect.