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How much coffee does a soldier need to maximize alertness? The Army’s got an app for that

A cup of coffee (Dreamstime/TNS)

Have you ever had a cup or two of coffee and wondered whether you need more?

Not enough and you might as well go back to sleep? Too much and you risk the dreaded jitters?

The U.S. Army has answers.

Caffeine’s effectiveness depends on several factors besides a person’s innate sensitivity, according to an Army-supported study released last week, which proposes an algorithm to determine when and how much caffeine to consume in order to maximize benefits and minimize negative effects.

That algorithm will be available via a smartphone application that will enable the user to “predict current and future alertness and cognitive performance based on a series of psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) tests and the individual’s sleep and caffeine intake data,” according to the study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Sleep Research.

The ideal caffeine intake varies depending on the user’s physiology, but researchers have determined that the time when a person drinks coffee plays just as much of a role as the amount.

“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 64 percent, while consuming the same total amount of caffeine,” said Jaques Reifman, a senior research scientist at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, which sponsored the study.

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

The Army is set to use the new formula to maximize performance during training. The 2B-Alert Web app is already accessible to help users determine the effects of different sleep routines, though the caffeine optimization tool is still being developed.

Eventually, soldiers will be able to do the necessary calculations via the 2B-Alert Personalized Alertness and Cognitive Performance smartphone app, which was developed by the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.

Because who wouldn’t want the most relaxing part of their day to be meticulously planned out by the military?


© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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