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Caffeine May Boost This Vital Skill, Says Recent Research 

Your morning coffee may be more powerful than you think.

Caffeine provides much more than a boost of energy, having been shown in previous research to help improve mood. Now, a study in the journal Psychopharmacology suggests this natural stimulant may also boost your visual skills.

Researchers examined 21 young people with low caffeine consumption who were given either a caffeine pill or a placebo, measuring their visual acuity and reaction times an hour before and after. Those who took the caffeine showed significant improvements in their ability to detect moving targets and small details compared to those who took the placebo, meaning they had temporarily enhanced visual processing.

Those in the caffeine group also demonstrated greater accuracy and speed when given visual tasks, which researchers suggest could be related to a higher level of alertness. (RELATED: The 100 Unhealthiest Foods On the Planet)

The study does have several limitations, most notably the small sample size, the short timeframe, and the fact that only participants in their early 20s were included. More research on a greater breadth and number of participants is needed to confirm the results.

That being said, there is additional research with similar findings about caffeine and attention. For example, a study on teens found that caffeine helped them sustain attention for longer periods of time. Another study, a meta-analysis reviewing caffeine's effects on cognitive and physical function, found ample evidence that caffeine improves reaction time, attention, and alertness.

Does this mean you should boost your caffeine intake throughout the day as a performance hack? Not so fast, suggests W. Chris Winter, M.D., author of The Sleep Solution and president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine.

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Keep in mind that caffeine in any form still has a stimulating effect that can make it tough to fall asleep and enjoy deeper sleep once you do. According to Winter, this can create a cascade of disadvantages.

"It doesn't take long for sleep disruption to affect your health in other ways, including reduced immune system function, higher inflammation, and potential weight gain," he says. "Because of that, it's a good idea to restrict your caffeine consumption to the morning, especially if you're already having sleep difficulties."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that healthy adults not consume more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day. An 8-ounce cup of coffee usually has about 80 to 100 milligrams of caffeine. As long as you're keeping it under four cups, you're more likely to get caffeine's benefits without that jitter-filled drawback. But don't forget that caffeine is present in other common foods and beverages, such as chocolate, protein bars, tea, and even some ice creams.

Even more stories about caffeinated beverages: 

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Elizabeth Millard
Elizabeth Millard is a freelance writer specializing in health, fitness, and nutrition. Read more about Elizabeth