The stimulant effect of coffee comes largely from the way it acts on the adenosine receptors in the neural membrane. Adenosine is a central nervous system neuromodulator that has specific receptors. When adenosine binds to its receptors, neural activity slows down, and you feel sleepy. Adenosine thus facilitates sleep and dilates the blood vessels, probably to ensure good oxygenation during sleep.
Caffeine acts as an adenosine-receptor antagonist. This means that it binds to these same receptors, but without reducing neural activity. Fewer receptors are thus available to the natural “braking” action of adenosine, and neural activity therefore speeds up (see animation). “}}