Caffeine dosing strategies to optimize alertness during sleep loss

J Sleep Res. 2018 Oct;27(5):e12711. doi: 10.1111/jsr.12711. Epub 2018 May 28.


Sleep loss, which affects about one-third of the US population, can severely impair physical and neurobehavioural performance. Although caffeine, the most widely used stimulant in the world, can mitigate these effects, currently there are no tools to guide the timing and amount of caffeine consumption to optimize its benefits. In this work, we provide an optimization algorithm, suited for mobile computing platforms, to determine when and how much caffeine to consume, so as to safely maximize neurobehavioural performance at the desired time of the day, under any sleep-loss condition. The algorithm is based on our previously validated Unified Model of Performance, which predicts the effect of caffeine consumption on a psychomotor vigilance task. We assessed the algorithm by comparing the caffeine-dosing strategies (timing and amount) it identified with the dosing strategies used in four experimental studies, involving total and partial sleep loss. Through computer simulations, we showed that the algorithm yielded caffeine-dosing strategies that enhanced performance of the predicted psychomotor vigilance task by up to 64% while using the same total amount of caffeine as in the original studies. In addition, the algorithm identified strategies that resulted in equivalent performance to that in the experimental studies while reducing caffeine consumption by up to 65%. Our work provides the first quantitative caffeine optimization tool for designing effective strategies to maximize neurobehavioural performance and to avoid excessive caffeine consumption during any arbitrary sleep-loss condition.

Keywords: alertness; fatigue; mathematical model; response time; vigilance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Caffeine / administration & dosage
  • Caffeine / pharmacology
  • Caffeine / therapeutic use*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Sleep Deprivation / drug therapy*
  • Wakefulness / drug effects*


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Caffeine