, Volume 179, Issue 4, pp 742–752 | Cite as

Effects of caffeine and caffeine withdrawal on mood and cognitive performance degraded by sleep restriction

  • Peter J. Rogers
  • Susan V. Heatherley
  • Robert C. Hayward
  • Helen E. Seers
  • Joanne Hill
  • Marian Kane
Original Investigation



It has been suggested that caffeine is most likely to benefit mood and performance when alertness is low.


To measure the effects of caffeine on psychomotor and cognitive performance, mood, blood pressure and heart rate in sleep-restricted participants. To do this in a group of participants who had also been previously deprived of caffeine for 3 weeks, thereby potentially removing the confounding effects of acute caffeine withdrawal.


Participants were moderate to moderate–high caffeine consumers who were provided with either decaffeinated tea and/or coffee for 3 weeks (LTW) or regular tea and/or coffee for 3 weeks (overnight caffeine-withdrawn participants, ONW). Then, following overnight caffeine abstinence, they were tested on a battery of tasks assessing mood, cognitive performance, etc. before and after receiving caffeine (1.2 mg/kg) or on another day after receiving placebo.


Final analyses were based on 17 long-term caffeine-withdrawn participants (LTW) and 17 ONW participants whose salivary caffeine levels on each test day confirmed probable compliance with the instructions concerning restrictions on consumption of caffeine-containing drinks. Acute caffeine withdrawal (ONW) had a number of negative effects, including impairment of cognitive performance, increased headache, and reduced alertness and clear-headedness. Caffeine (versus placebo) did not significantly improve cognitive performance in LTW participants, although it prevented further deterioration of performance in ONW participants. Caffeine increased tapping speed (but tended to impair hand steadiness), increased blood pressure, and had some effects on mood in both groups.


The findings provide strong support for the withdrawal reversal hypothesis. In particular, cognitive performance was found to be affected adversely by acute caffeine withdrawal and, even in the context of alertness lowered by sleep restriction, cognitive performance was not improved by caffeine in the absence of these withdrawal effects. Different patterns of effects (or lack of effects) of caffeine and caffeine withdrawal were found for other variables, but overall these results also suggest that there is little benefit to be gained from caffeine consumption.


Caffeine Drug withdrawal Cognitive performance Psychomotor performance Sleep restriction Alertness Mood Tremor Blood pressure Heart rate 



This research was supported by a grant from the European Union Fifth Framework Programme (grant no. QLK1-2000-00069). The views expressed in this paper are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission or its services or their future policy in this area.


  1. Arnold RW, Springer DT, Engel WK, Helveston EM (1993) The effect of wrist rest, caffeine, and oral timolol on the hand steadiness of ophthalmologists. Ann Ophthalmol 25:250–253Google Scholar
  2. Baddeley AD (1999) Essentials of human memory. Psychology Press, HoveGoogle Scholar
  3. Bovim G, Naess P, Helle J, Sand T (1995) Caffeine influence on the motor steadiness battery in neuropsychological tests. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 17:472–476Google Scholar
  4. Broadbent DE, Broadbent HP, Jones JJ (1989) Time of day as an instrument for the analysis of attention. Eur J Cogn Psychol 1:69–94Google Scholar
  5. Bruce M, Scott N, Shine P, Lader M (1991) Caffeine withdrawal: a contrast of withdrawal symptoms in normal subjects who have abstained from caffeine for 24 hours and for 7 days. J Psychopharmacol 5:129–134Google Scholar
  6. Dawson EL, Dennison EHL, van Weeman BK (1978) A simple and efficient method for raising steroid antibodies in rabbits. Steroids 31:357–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eriksen BA, Eriksen CW (1974) Effects of noise letters upon identification of target in a non-search task. Percept Psychophys 16:143–149Google Scholar
  8. Erlanger B, Borek F, Beiser SM, Lieberman S (1957) Preparation and characterisation of conjugates of bovine serum albumin with testosterone and with cortisone. J Biol Chem 228:713–727PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Goldstein A, Kaizer S, Whitby O (1969) Psychotropic effects of caffeine in man. IV. Quantitative and qualitative differences associated with habituation to coffee. Clin Pharmacol Ther 10:489–497PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Horne JA, Reyner LA (1996) Counteracting driver sleepiness: effects of napping, caffeine and placebo. Psychophysiology 33:306–309Google Scholar
  11. James JE (1990) The influence of user status and anxious disposition on the hypertensive effects of caffeine. Int J Psychophysiol 10:171–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. James JE (1994) Does caffeine enhance or merely restore degraded performance? Neuropsychobiology 30:124–125Google Scholar
  13. James JE (1997) Understanding caffeine: a biobehavioral analysis. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CAGoogle Scholar
  14. James JE (1998) Acute and chronic effects of caffeine on performance, mood, and sleep. Neuropsychobiology 38:32–41CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Johnson LC, Spinweber CL, Gomez SA, Matteson LT (1990) Daytime sleepiness, performance, mood, nocturnal sleep: the effect of benzodiazepine and caffeine on their relationship. Sleep 13:121–135Google Scholar
  16. Leark RA, Dupuy T, Greenberg L, Corman C, Kindschi C (1996) Test of variables of attention: professional manual. Universal Attention Disorders, Los Alamitos, CAGoogle Scholar
  17. Lieberman HR, Wurtman RJ, Emde GG, Roberts C, Coviella ILG (1987) The effects of low doses of caffeine on human performance and mood. Psychopharmacology 92:308–312Google Scholar
  18. Lieberman HR, Tharion WJ, Shukitt-Hale B, Speckman KL, Tulley R (2002) Effects of caffeine, sleep loss, and stress on cognitive performance and mood during U.S. Navy SEAL training. Psychopharmacology 164:250–261Google Scholar
  19. Lorist MM, Snel J, Kok A (1994) Influence of caffeine on information processing in well rested and fatigued subjects. Psychopharmacology 113:411–421Google Scholar
  20. Miller LS, Lombardo TW, Fowler SC (1998) Caffeine, but not time of day, increases whole-arm physiological tremor in non-smoking moderate users. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol 25:131–133Google Scholar
  21. Reyner LA, Horne JA (2002) Efficacy of a ‘functional energy drink’ in counteracting driver sleepiness. Physiol Behav 75:331–335CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Richardson NJ, Rogers PJ, Elliman NA, O’Dell RJ (1995) Mood and performance effects of caffeine in relation to acute and chronic caffeine deprivation. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 52:313–320CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Rogers PJ, Dernoncourt C (1998) Regular caffeine consumption: a balance of adverse and beneficial effects for mood and psychomotor performance. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 59:1039–1045CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Rogers PJ, Stephens S, Day JEL (1998) Contrasting performance effects of caffeine after overnight and chronic caffeine withdrawal. J Psychopharmacol 12:A13Google Scholar
  25. Rogers PJ, Martin J, Smith C, Heatherley SV, Smit HJ (2003) Absence of reinforcing, mood and psychomotor performance effects of caffeine in habitual non-consumers of caffeine. Psychopharmacology 167:54–62PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Smit HJ, Rogers PJ (2000) Effects of low doses of caffeine on cognitive performance, mood and thirst in low and higher caffeine consumers. Psychopharmacology 152:167–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Smit HJ, Rogers PJ (2002) Effects of caffeine on mood. Pharmacopsychoecologia 15:231–257Google Scholar
  28. Smith AP, Maben A, Brockman P (1994) Effects of evening meals and caffeine on cognitive performance, mood and cardiovascular functioning. Appetite 22:57–65CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Warburton DM (1995) Effects of caffeine on cognition and mood without caffeine abstinence. Psychopharmacology 119:66–70PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Warburton DM, Bersellini E (2001) An evaluation of a caffeinated taurine drink on mood, memory and information processing in healthy volunteers without caffeine abstinence. Psychopharmacology 158:322–328CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Wesensten NJ, Belenky G, Kautz MA, Thorne DR, Reichardt RM, Balkin TJ (2002) Maintaining alertness and performance during sleep deprivation: modafinil versus caffeine. Psychopharmacology 159:238–247Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter J. Rogers
    • 1
  • Susan V. Heatherley
    • 1
  • Robert C. Hayward
    • 1
  • Helen E. Seers
    • 1
  • Joanne Hill
    • 1
  • Marian Kane
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Experimental PsychologyUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  2. 2.National Diagnostics CentreNational University of Ireland, GalwayGalwayIreland

Personalised recommendations