Caffeine can help increase reaction time and improve performance for military servicemen who must perform complex tasks or who need help staying alert for longer periods of time, according to a new report by the National Academy of Sciences. The report, by the academy's Institute of Medicine, found that 100 to 600 mg of caffeine, the equivalent of one to six cups of coffee, can help "maintain cognitive performance," especially in times of sleep deprivation.
A similar dose of caffeine, about 200-600 mg, also appears effective in enhancing physical endurance and may be especially useful in returning some of the physical endurance lost at high altitude. "We think this is going to be extremely important in this ongoing effort to combat terrorism," Lt. Col. Donald Archibald, deputy director of military operational medicine at Ft. Detrick, Maryland, said.
Specifically, it can be used in maintaining speed of reactions and visual and auditory vigilance, which in military operations could be a life or death situation. The military also is considering other drugs, including modafinil, a drug sometimes used to counteract narcolepsy, that could help servicemen stay awake.