News & Opinion | July 23, 2018 5:00 am

An Algorithm Can Now Determine Your Ideal Caffeine Fix

The Army figured out the ideal dose of caffeine to keep soldiers alert.

(Getty Images)

Caffeine can help keep you alert and wake you up, but for the optimal jolt, how much do you drink and when? The U.S. Army and the Department of Defense developed an algorithm to answer that question, since many soldiers go for days without getting enough, or any, sleep. A perfectly timed and ideal portion of caffeine can fend off fatigue that might jeopardize a mission or put lives at risk, reports The Wall Street Journal. But the mathematical model could also help sleep civilians.

“If you could come to work, drink caffeine and have your mental acuity improved by 40% for four hours, wouldn’t you like that?” said Jaques Reifman, a senior research scientist at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command in Ft. Detrick, Md., who helped develop the algorithm, reports the The Wall Street Journal. “That’s what we’re trying to do here.”

According to Gallup, the average American sleeps just 6.8 hours a night. After sleeping that amount, by the end of the work week, the algorithm predicts someone who rises at 6 a.m. would need to consume 200 milligrams of caffeine at 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. to be as alert as someone who had slept eight hours and had no caffeine.

The algorithm is currently not available to the public, but the Army plans to license the technology and create a smartphone app which would learn how individual users respond to sleep deprivation and caffeine. It would allow them to specify the time of day when they want to hit peak performance so they can tailor their caffeine intake accordingly.