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Staying Awake

September 15, 2005

Drooping eyelids? One listener asks about the best way to stay alert.


Prying open your eyes. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Perhaps early morning classes prompted David Pereira of Silver Spring, Maryland, to ask about the best way to keep the mind alert.

Psychiatry professor Robert McCarley of Harvard and V.A. Boston Healthcare says the best way to wake up is still coffee or its cousins tea, cocoa, and soda. His research suggests that caffeine blocks adenosine, a chemical produced by your brain that makes you sleepy. He says it’s safer than alternatives such as amphetamines.

ROBERT MCCARLEY (Harvard and V.A. Boston Healthcare):
The current scientific consensus is that caffeine gets a clear bill of health.

But he says there’s still no substitute for a good night’s sleep. Call us at 1-800-why-isit with your science question. If we use it, you’ll get a Science Update mug. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.