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When an upper becomes a downer.


A cup of coffee to get started in the morning, another soon after arriving at work to get through to coffee-break time--and so on through the day until evening, when only decaffeinated coffee will do so as not to interfere with the night's sleep. Such is the normal pattern of many Americans who depend on caffeine to keep them alert on the kob, while driving, and at sundry other times.

Dr. Quentin Regenstein, a psychiatrist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, recently described a series of cases involving persons whose caffeine dependency seemed to backfire. Consider, for example, the 43-year-old physician who required nine hours of sleep a night and a nap in the afternoon, together with three cups of coffee and three caffeine pills a day, just to keep going. Or the 29-year-old businessman who twice crashed his car after presumably falling asleep at the wheel; his pattern was to sleep only six hours a night and be groggy all day--despite his regular four to five cups of coffee and quart of Coke each day. Or how about the 35-year-old office worker who regularly slept 12 hours a night, stayed in bed all day Sunday, and consumed 10 cups of coffee and two quarts of Coke every day?

Like others in this series, none of the patients complained of trouble getting a good night's sleep, even after consuming all of their caffeine quotas during the day. Yet all suffered from poor work performance and other maladjustments to their daytime situations because of their daytime sleepiness. They shared one other thing as well : when they at last stopped taking caffeine, they all woke up!

Caffeine is a known stimulant, and the usual reaction to excessive amounts is inability to sleep at night; yet these people showed the opposite reaction. To be sure, this is a rare phenomenon, and the reasons for it have not yet been determined by further research. These preliminary findings do suggest, however, that anyone failing to overcome daytime grogginess through the use of caffeine in whatever form (in spite of adequate sleep at night) might be pleasantly surprised at the results of giving up caffeine for a few weeks.
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Title Annotation:daytime grogginess caused by excessive amounts of caffeine
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Dec 1, 1990
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