New algorithm tells you just how much coffee you need to stay awake

5 Jun 2018

Image: LDprod/Shutterstock

Those who struggle in the morning without coffee could soon find out just how much they need in order to make them perfectly perky.

The brewing of coffee has lately been considered an art form, striving for the perfect balance between coffee and water to make the perfect pick-me-up.

For many early risers, that thirst for coffee is a way to perk themselves up on an early workday morning, and this can lead to someone becoming over-caffeinated and feeling a lot worse off than when they woke up.

Future Human

Thankfully, according to a recent study published by a team of researchers in an abstract supplement of the journal Sleep, we may have found a way to determine the exact amount of coffee you need in the morning to stay perky and not fall asleep at your desk.

The study used a validated mathematical model, which predicts the effects of sleep loss and caffeine on psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) performance, and combined it with a computationally efficient optimisation algorithm.

This determined when and how much caffeine to consume to safely maximise alertness during sleep loss, taking a user-provided sleep/wake schedule and maximum allowed caffeine as inputs and providing a caffeine-dosing strategy as the output.

64pc improvement

“We found that, by using our algorithm, which determines when and how much caffeine a subject should consume, we can improve alertness by up to 64pc while consuming the same total amount of caffeine,” said principal investigator and senior author of the paper, Dr Jaques Reifman.

“Alternatively, a subject can reduce caffeine consumption by up to 65pc and still achieve equivalent improvements in alertness.”

The algorithm was created by computing and comparing dosing strategies for four previously published experimental studies of sleep loss.

For each of these studies, two dosing strategies were calculated: one that enhanced the PVT performance using the same amount of caffeine in the original study, and the second which achieved an equivalent level of performance as in the original studies using a lower amount of caffeine.

“Our algorithm is the first quantitative tool that provides automated, customised guidance for safe and effective caffeine dosing to maximise alertness at the most needed times during any sleep-loss condition,” Reifman added.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic