How to live with migraine: Why a caffeine turbo boost saps your brains energy

I am a big fan of the Oatmeal and I just love how he explains how caffeine affects a human. I so wish I had his skills. I would love to be able to express things in such a fun way.

I actually learnt something reading this post which I do when I read a lot of his posts. From my memory of how caffeine and other drugs work I think his version is pretty accurate. I just know it will stick in my mind better than most other explanations.

The relation to migraine is because we know it is a stimulant that works on various parts of the body particularly the brain. I’ve always noticed how coffee gives me a turbo boost, but then later I am much more tired than I normally would have been. For me this seems just like the turbo boost you see in video games, particularly simulations of fighter jets (I am a plane geek you see). I remember how you could push your plane really fast for a while to avoid an attacker or something but you would use two to three times as much energy per second to do so. So you have to use it sparingly or you will run out of energy and crash.

A similar thing happens when you overclock your pc. This is a techie thing that means adjusting the way your pc works so it runs faster than normal, putting it in a turbo mode. Gamers often do this because they need their pcs to run as fast as possible. It also means that their computers are much more likely to overheat and fail because they are often being pushed to far.

I see the turbo boost that caffeine provides working the same way on our brain. Normally you have enough energy for the day and recover it at night during sleep. Caffeine puts your brain on turbo so it runs through the energy much sooner so you crash, you run out of the available energy, generally sugar and so you have to start creating sugar from available sources. This stresses the brain. It’s fine, you just need to last until you sleep but now that you’re overloaded it won’t take much to push your brain too far and cause an injury.

This is why I’m researching because the more I investigate the more questions I have like what would a brain injury like this look like?

Here are just a couple of questions.

  1. The brain itself has no sensory nerves so how does it feel pain?
  2. I expect the brain would become inflamed when pushed this hard, would this be the cause of the pain or is there another mechanism?

Until the next post. Thanks for listening. What’s your experience with caffeine? does the turbo analogy make sense or do you have a better explanation?

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