Our desperate coffee cravings impair our ability to learn, new study finds

For those of us who crave the sweet elixir of caffeine, there’s a reason to keep it going: when we skip our morning cup of coffee, it can have far-reaching consequences to our memories, as one study found out.

University of Tasmania researchers got 55 regular coffee drinkers to participate in a memory challenge where they had to recall unrelated words in the right order. But first, half of the participants were induced into a state of craving.

The researchers poured a cup of freshly brewed black coffee right in front of them. They asked these poor participants to “imagine what it would be like to have a cup of your favorite coffee right at this moment,” and they told them that under no circumstances would they be allowed to have the coffee right in their reach.

Coffee cravings impair our ability to memorize

The other half of the participants got to drink their morning coffee like they normally would and were asked to imagine their favorite holiday. So half of the participants were irritated and craving caffeine and the other half were imagining their vacation in the Maldives. Unsurprisingly, the caffeine-craving participants significantly underperformed on the memory challenges compared to the control group. Researchers suggest that this is because when you’re craving something, it blocks out other thoughts, and makes it hard for you to concentrate on the task at hand.

“Cravings on memory performance can be considered a special case of cognitive load,” the study states. “Cravings trigger consumption schemas and the inhibition of these schemas requires cognitive resources, leaving fewer resources available for other cognitive tasks.”

So if you have a big test coming up, don’t skip your morning coffee if you’re already a regular drinker. Although there are naysayers about coffee consumption, the beverage has been experiencing a renaissance as studies touting its benefits have been coming out of the woodworks this year. First, there was a 15-year review of coffee studies that found that our healthy bodies can handle up to four cups of coffee without experiencing adverse effects. Then, there was recent research that found a link between drinking coffee and living a longer life.

If you’re already a coffee drinker, be aware of its significant effects on you— which can be as amazing as living longer or as terrible as forgetting your memories.