If you regularly reach for that morning (or afternoon) cup of coffee, you're probably after one thing--a glorious jolt that lets you whiz through tasks, get the creative juices flowing, or focus. There's no cookie-cutter prescription for an optimum level of performance with the support of caffeine, however, simply because we all have different bodies and sleep patterns.

But what if you had a way to analyze how much caffeine to consume and when based on your specific profile?

Now we're talkin'.

An unprecedented biohacking tool

Researcher Jaques Reifman has developed an algorithm that, in essence, will create a personalized caffeine consumption schedule for you. The algorithm is based on a previously validated Unified Model of Performance. This model predicts how the caffeine you consume will affect how well you perform on a psychomotor vigilance task (PVT). (A PVT is simply a test that measures how fast you can respond to something you see. Astronauts have used them to monitor neurological functioning and stay safe in the International Space Station, for example, but a basic PVT isn't much different than that light dot test at the DMV.) With this model as a basis, you provide the algorithm with your sleep/wake schedule, as well as the maximum amount of caffeine allowed. The algorithm then determines your personal dosing strategy from those two inputs.

To verify the algorithm's results, Reifman compared the caffeine dosing strategies the algorithm came up with to dosing strategies from four previous studies on total and partial sleep loss. Computer simulations proved that, when the amount of caffeine was the same as in the previous studies, the algorithm came up with strategies that bumped performance on the PVT by up to 64 percent. The algorithm also came up with strategies that cut the caffeine level by up to 65 percent while still yielding a performance equal to that in the other studies. In layman's terms, that means the algorithm could help you figure out how to take it up a notch without drinking more coffee, as well as how to maintain your results while cutting back on your cups of joe.

(Probably) Coming soon to an app near you

Now, Reifman didn't design this algorithm specifically for you or Penny Jane from accounting. Its main purpose is to help those in the military. These individuals routinely are required to deal with situations where sleep becomes a precious commodity. With a better sense of when to drink the black stuff, they potentially can reduce errors, work more efficiently, and stay safer. But, in time, it's not difficult to imagine the algorithm going mainstream. After all, tons of technologies originally intended for government agencies--particularly NASA--have found their way into our everyday lives. And Reifman says he hopes that the algorithm one day will be available to everybody.

Next step? Get the algorithm to sync with my coffeemaker and digital calendar reminders. And if it's not too much to ask, have it automatically change the color scheme on my computer at night, too. I'll just take a little nap here as I wait.   

Published on: Jun 6, 2018