You probably already know that caffeine helps you to stay alert and awake. This is one of the many reasons that more than half of all U.S. adults drink coffee every day. That’s 100 million Americans drinking down their favorite espressos, lattes, or good old-fashioned drip coffee each and every day. However, did you also know caffeine has a positive effect on long-term memory?

Caffeine’s Effect on Forming Memory

There are certain ways of drinking caffeine that have been proven most effective. A recent study out of Johns Hopkins University showed that caffeine helps to build long-term memory. The key to the success was not simply drinking coffee, however.  The timing and amount of caffeine ingested greatly affected the process of creating permanent memories.

The sweet spot for the amount of caffeine was found to be around 200 mg, or the amount in about twelve ounces of drip coffee. Another surprising key to creating long-term memory was the timing of the dosage. The researchers found that it worked best in helping to form long-term memories when taken after studying. 24 hours later, test subjects that received a placebo or a 100 mg dose of caffeine had more difficulty remembering images from the previous day’s study session.

So how can you apply this research to boosting your memory and study skills? One way would be to hold off on the caffeine during your study session, then treat yourself to a triple Americano as a reward. Not only will you feel good about having completed your studies for the day, you will also be helping your brain to turn all of the information studied into real, usable memory.

Caffeine as a Late Night Study Aid

For many people, the previous technique may not work for one reason:  they study late at night in one session. “Cramming” is a technique you will be very familiar with if you ever spent any time in a college dorm. It is also a study habit that many people carry over into their professional lives. Obviously, if your study session ends at two in the morning, drinking a big mug of coffee and heading off to bed is probably not an option for you.

Now imagine an extreme case where you were forced to stay awake for 72 straight hours and then study. This is exactly what happened in a test performed by the US Navy.

Even after days spent awake, the same amount of caffeine that you would get in a triple shot of espresso helped Navy sailors to perform better on mental tests. It also improved their alertness. If it works for them, starting off your evening study session with your favorite coffee drink could be a great way to get you through an otherwise boring study session.

If you are anything like most Americans, you enjoy starting your morning by helping yourself to a mug full of fresh coffee from the machine in your kitchen, or stopping by a coffee house on the way to work. What might surprise you is that by timing when you drink your favorite beverage and the amount that you drink, you can enhance your ability to stay alert and form memories.

The next time you study or have a busy day at work, try out a new coffee drinking technique.  It could make a big difference in your next business presentation or certification exam. At the same time, you will be enjoying one of the great pleasures in life: the coffee break.