Could an algorithm personalise caffeine intake and optimise alertness?

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

iStock / anatomy79
iStock / anatomy79
A new algorithm that works out the ideal caffeine dosage and timing for optimal alertness could form the basis of personalised caffeine consumption guidance.

According to US researchers, the dosing strategies described identified safe and effective caffeine-dosing strategies to maximise alertness under sleep-loss conditions.

“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% while consuming the same total amount of caffeine,”​ said senior author Dr Jaques Reifman.

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

Genetic influences

Despite the cognitive advantages demonstrated by caffeine, there are no universally accepted rules to guide the timing and amount of its consumption to optimise its benefits.

Any potential strategies are further complicated by a recent report that details the genetic factors that determine an individual’s caffeine sensitivity.

The report​, written by Dr. J.W Langer, for the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (Isic), also discusses the influence of non-genetic factors such as smoking status, pregnancy, and age.

Reduce caffeine intake

Dr Reifman, a senior research scientist at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command in Fort Detrick, Maryland, used a mathematical model, which predicts the effects of sleep loss and caffeine on psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) performance.

The team then combined it with an algorithm that took a user-provided sleep/wake schedule and maximum allowed caffeine as inputs, which provided a caffeine-dosing strategy as the output.

The algorithm was further assessed by comparisons to other dosing strategies determined by four previously published experimental studies of sleep loss.

For each study, two dosing strategies were computed—one which enhanced the predicted PVT performance using the same total amount of caffeine as in the original studies, and another which achieved an equivalent level of performance as in the original studies using a lower amount of caffeine.

By comparing the original dosing strategies used in these studies, the algorithm was able to suggest strategies that boosted cognitive performance by up to 64% or reduce caffeine consumption by up to 65%.

The authors added that the algorithm could personalise the timing and amount of caffeine to the specific sleep/wake schedule described in each study condition to maximise its benefits.

“Our algorithm is the first quantitative tool that provides automated, customised guidance for safe and effective caffeine dosing to maximise alertness at the most needed times during any sleep-loss condition,”​ said Dr Reifman.

Source: Journal of Sleep Research

Published online ahead of print, doi.org/10.1111/jsr.12711

“Caffeine dosing strategies to optimize alertness during sleep loss.”​

Authors: Jacques Reifman et al.

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