Each morning, the alarm goes off, and another battle in the never-ending war against drowsiness begins. For Americans, their main defense against a foggy mind is caffeine, with as much as 85 percent of the adult population drinking at least one caffeinated beverage each day. But you’ll be relieved to learn there are other foods and beverages besides coffee (and caffeinated energy drinks) that can help us feel alert.
Staying alert is not simply a proverbial “state of mind”— it’s literal one. The physiological reactions happening in your brain determine your ability to focus and stay awake. Normally, when the brain is active, it burns energy transported by the neurotransmitter called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The constant degradation of ATP produces just plain adenosine, and when enough adenosine accumulates, it triggers the need to sleep and renew your energy source. The caffeine is affective at keeping us awake because it actually binds to and blocks the brain’s adenosine receptors, delaying the feeling of drowsiness.