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Short on sleep and need to use caffeine to stay sharp? The cavalry has arrived, in a manner of speaking.

The Army has developed a Web-based “caffeine optimization tool” that tells people who are short on sleep when they should have a cup of java to maintain alertness levels.

It also tells people the right amount of coffee so they don’t overdo it.

“Our 2B-Alert Web tool allows an individual, in our case our service members, to optimize the beneficial effects of caffeine while minimizing its consumption,” Jaques Reifman, a senior research scientist at the Army Medical Research and Development Command at Fort Detrick, Md., said in a statement.

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The tool is free to people who register on the site.

The researchers described their tool in April in an online supplement of the journal Sleep. Researchers were presentiing it this week at SLEEP 2019, the 33rd annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

Reifman said in a telephone interview that more than 40 percent of military members are believed to be sleeping five hours or fewer per night so it’s crucial that they can use a cup of java in “just the right dose to reach desired peak alertness levels when you want it.”

The website could help both in military mission planning and in civilian settings. Places where people are doing shift work, such as air traffic controllers or hospital workers, could benefit, he said.

Users can input factors such as the desirable peak-alertness periods within a schedule, the minimum desirable level of alertness, and their maximum tolerable daily caffeine intake, the researchers said.

A sample screen from the Web tool shows an optimized caffeine regimen for a person getting five hours of sleep who wants to be alert at a certain time of the day (the green shaded period on the bar). The red plot shows impairment rising over the days as sleep debt accumulates, to the point where the person is impaired as if they had a 0.06 percent blood alcohol. The green plot shows how caffeine reduces the impairment level during the period that alertness is desired — but only temporarily.
A sample screen from the Web tool shows an optimized caffeine regimen for a person getting five hours of sleep who wants to be alert at a certain time of the day (the green shaded period on the bar). The red plot shows impairment rising over the days as sleep debt accumulates, to the point where the person is impaired as if they had a 0.06 percent blood alcohol. The green plot shows how caffeine reduces the impairment level during the period that alertness is desired — but only temporarily.US Army

Reifman said the website should work for many people, but people’s constitutions do differ so the military is also working on a cellphone app that would measure an individual’s alertness through reaction time tests and then develop personalized recommendations.

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“The pilot of an F-15,” he said, “you want to make sure that guy’s alert. You want something that’s customized to that person.”

That app will also be made available to the public, he said.


Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com