By Danielle Kassouf, Summer 2012
As a graduate student, there are certain stereotypes I do perpetuate. You can find me hunched over a frozen dinner with a textbook in one hand many nights of the week. My fridge contains pickles, a questionable looking Tupper-ware or two, and condiments. My DVR is full of shows I haven't had a chance to watch and the only time I spend outdoors is my walk to the bus or school. Yes, I am your "typical" graduate student in many ways. However, one habit distinguishes me from your average grad student. I am in the midst of an experiment, but it isn't one I submitted to the IRB. It began last summer as a kind of "what if?" idea. I wondered if quitting coffee would help me avoid the afternoon "crash" that I often got around 3pm or so. So I quit coffee, cold turkey. This wasn't easy for me, I was dragging that first week. But I exercised more to get a little extra energy, and I got through it; now I am coffee free. My energy level is constant throughout the day, and with a good night's sleep, I don't find myself dragging in the afternoon.
I spoke with some other graduate students at CSPP about their caffeine consumption habits. Many students report having a tolerance to caffeine, needing multiple cups per day to maintain their energy level, or in some cases, switching to energy drinks when coffee just wasn't enough. Many students have a cup in the morning as part of their routine and they enjoy the habit. They will have another cup in the afternoon to stay awake and alert for class.
Quite a few of the students I spoke with have limited their caffeine intake. One student described her realization of her "addiction" to caffeine and her conscious effort to wean herself off of it. She is now caffeine free. Another student is aware of the negative side effects she experiences when she drinks caffeine, including feelings of anxiety and worry. She allows herself a cup only when she absolutely needs to have a jolt to make it through the rest of her day. Another student recognized her reliance on caffeine last semester and set herself a two cup per day limit.
As graduate students, we are in a position where we must be awake and alert for most hours of the day. We often don't have time to get the eight hours of sleep per night that we need but we must carry on with our day anyway. Caffeine is a quick, relatively cheap solution to the problem so it is no surprise that many of my fellow students report having a close, personal relationship with coffee. This summer, as your schedule winds down (at least a little bit!) and the days are longer, take some time to examine your own relationship with caffeine. Are you drinking too much?