If you’re a regular coffee drinker you’re probably familiar with the wonderful feeling of drinking that first cup in the morning. Asides from helping you to wake up, coffee also just makes you feel good. So why is this?
The caffeine in coffee doesn’t actually wake you up. What it does do is mimic the neurochemical adenosine. Adenosine is a chemical produced by your brain as it works, and the more of it that is produced, the more you nervous system slows down, making you feel sleepy. Caffeine is very similar to adenosine and slips into the receptors that detect adenosine, blocking them from working. With these receptors blocked your brain can’t detect how much adenosine it has produced, stopping you from feeling tired.
That’s not the end of caffeine’s tricks though. With the adenosine receptors blocked, the body’s own stimulants, dopamine and glutamate are left free to work. These two chemicals are integral to the brain’s reward system, making you feel good and forming a relationship with the activity that set off this response.
So it’s not the caffeine itself that makes you feel more awake and happier, but it allows your body to use its own systems to reward you for your morning cup. Unfortunately as the day goes on the effect of caffeine is diminished until eventually it has almost no effect – the house always wins in the end.