For many of us, a typical day looks a little something like this: Wake up, have a cup of coffee, get stuff done. But is taking your daily cup o' Joe in the early a.m. really the best way for you to get caffeinated?
According to new research published in Frontiers in Psychology, the answer to that question depends heavily on one surprising factor: your age.
For the November 2016 study, researchers asked two groups of 30 college students to complete a memory test. The first group completed the test in a 6 a.m. session, where half of the participants were given a caffeinated cup of coffee and the other half were given a cup of decaf coffee before they began. The second group completed the test at a 2 p.m. session — and once again, half of the participants were given a cup of caffeinated coffee while the other half received a cup of decaf coffee prior to the test. During both sessions, the students were asked to rate how "awake" they felt at the beginning and end of the memory test.
After analyzing the test results, the researchers found that the time of day made a big difference in the caffeinated participants' success: Students who drank the caffeinated coffee during the morning session outperformed their decaf counterparts by 30 percent, while the students who downed a caffeinated cup o' Joe during the afternoon session didn't really do any better than their decaffeinated peers.
What's Age Got to Do With It?
The results of this study turned out just as the researchers predicted: They work in tandem with the findings of a similar January 2002 study, which found that adults age 65 and over reaped the most memory-boosting benefits when they took their coffee in the afternoon.
Both studies support the idea that the best time of day to drink coffee changes as we get older. And that actually makes a whole lot of sense, because our body's circadian rhythms change as we age — older people generally feel more "awake" in the morning and younger people generally feel more "awake" in the afternoon.
"The idea is that if people are already at their optimal [time of day], some caffeine is not going to further increase performance," lead study author Stephanie Sherman, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at Boston College, told Mental Floss. "Caffeine only helped when you're at your low point in the day of physiological arousal and performance."
So there you have it — the best time of day for you drink coffee is when, well, you most feel like you need it.
...BRB, that's our cue to put on a fresh pot.
[h/t Mental Floss]