To some of us, caffeine has become a permanent part of our daily lives. We aren’t “awake” until we’ve had our morning coffee, and we need a little boost in the early afternoon. We stay up late working on projects or catching up on the latest shows, relying on caffeine along the way. Caffeine is everywhere, and it’s the lifeblood that lets us keep up with our busy lives. Why does caffeine make you tired?
Sometimes, however, you finish your double espresso or your energy supplement only to feel more tired than before. Or you slowly work your way through a pot of coffee while you work only to feel more and more tired. This confusing effect of caffeine can ruin your day, so it helps to understand why caffeine can make you tired.
Caffeine is a chemical compound that is found naturally in plants like coffee and tea leaves. It is bitter, and has a crystalline structure. It can also be man-made and added to drinks and drugs. Caffeine is considered to be a stimulant by the FDA, and is an incredibly popular product.
Caffeine doesn’t have a huge impact on the flavor of drinks like coffee, but it is a big part of why people drink it. This potent stimulant increases your alertness, raises your heart rate, and removes feelings of fatigue and drowsiness, making it the perfect thing to wake you up in the morning or keep you going late into the night.
How It Works
When you get tired, your brain produces a chemical called adenosine. This hormone interacts with adenosine receptors to produce the feeling of fatigue. It tells your brain that you’re overexerting yourself, and that you need to rest.
Contrary to popular belief, caffeine doesn’t “give you more energy.” Instead, it actually binds to your adenosine receptors, preventing your brain from inducing fatigue. So rather than giving you more energy, caffeine just masks the effects of fatigue.
Ways Caffeine Makes You Tired
It’s almost paradoxical that the world’s most popular stimulant can make you drowsy. While there is not exact cause for this phenomenon, there are a few culprits that could be causing this crash. Depending on your exact situation, you could be experiencing one or more of these issues with caffeine.
The caffeine crash
Even though your adenosine receptors stop detecting the adenosine, your brain keeps producing it. So while you feel awake and alert for a couple of hours after your quad-shot latte, the fatigue chemicals keep building up. When the caffeine wears off, all of the adenosine and fatigue hits you at once, resulting in that annoying drive to take a nap.
This effect is compounded by a few factors. If you’re like most Americans, you aren’t sleeping enough, so you prop yourself up with a caffeine. Lack of sleep will make the caffeine crash even worse. Similarly, you tend to push yourself even harder when you have a caffeine boost, making the effects of a caffeine crash much more noticable.
It’s mostly the veteran coffee drinkers that experience post-caffeine drowsiness. If you find yourself in a cycle of drinking more and more coffee each day, only to quit because it isn’t working, then starting up again after a few weeks, you’re probably grappling with your caffeine tolerance. This is one of the most common reasons that coffee and caffeine makes you tired.
Like with most stimulants, your body gets used to the effects of caffeine. By downing 3 or 4 cups every day, your body begins to produce more adenosine to make sure you feel tired. And, of course, the first instinct when you start to feel tired midday is to have another cup of coffee, perpetuating the cycle.
Caffeine is a potent diuretic. it makes you sweat and urinate more, causing you to dehydrate quickly. When you’re dehydrated, your body loses its alertness, making. you tired. Especially if you have espresso or high-caffeine energy drinks, where you aren’t taking it a lot of water, you get dehydrated quickly with caffeine.
The sugar crash
While many coffee aficionados prefer a cup of black drip coffee or an espresso macchiato, a lot of us like to have our caffeine with sugar. The sweet, syrupy flavor of sugar is the perfect counterpoint to the bitterness of caffeine, making it all too easy to get a sugar crash. To make matters worse, energy drinks typically come packed with sugar to enhance their boosting effects, only to lead to an even bigger crash.
Your body processes sugar much faster than caffeine, resulting in a crash after as little as an hour. Sugar is a quick source of energy, causing you to exert more than you would if you skipped the sweet treats. Because of this extra energy use, sugary drinks drag out the caffeine crash, making you regret lunchtime beverage by 3 PM.
Lack of rest
Of course you’re going to feel tired if you’re not on enough sleep, but caffeine can make things worse. Many Americans think of coffee and energy drinks as a substitute for sleep, but this just isn’t the case. When you’re low on sleep, your brain can’t handle the stress of the day, producing even more adenosine. Even caffeine’s stimulating properties won’t prevent this fatigue, resulting in the crash. Caffeine works best when you’re on a full night of sleep.
How To Stay Awake After Drinking Caffeine
Despite all of these potential reasons for post-caffeine drowsiness, most of us keep on drinking coffee, tea, and energy drinks. Either your lucky enough to not face any issues with caffeine consumption, or you follow some of these methods to prevent the sleepiness that caffeine can cause.
Drink less caffeine
This one’s a no-brainer. If you feel like you get too tired to function after that 3rd cup of coffee, just keep it to 2 cups. Everyone has that sweet-spot where they can maximize the benefits of caffeine without having the crash, so experiment a bit to find yours.
Be efficient with your caffeine intake, too. Maybe you love the flavor of espresso and latte drinks for breakfast, but you reach for an energy shot in the early afternoons. If you don’t like a drink that much, don’t take it just for the caffeine. You’ll get that drowsy feeling without enriching your day.
Drink more caffeine
The opposite of the previous suggestion, but still a powerful option. If you feel tired 100 minutes after a cup of joe, having another one will give you another 100 minutes. Or just front load your caffeine and add a few extra shots to your latte to power your way through the day.
This method usually only lasts for a little while. Maybe you have a big assignment coming up, you you really want to finish this season of your favorite show. In these situations, cramming in more caffeine will help, but not for much longer.
Cut the sugar
While a caramel macchiato with extra caramel sounds delicious, it makes your caffeine crash much worse. By cutting the sugar, you can get all of the benefits of caffeine while minimizing the drawbacks. This way, you’ll have all of the alertness and energy that come with a cup of coffee without the drowsiness that follow.
You don’t even have to completely eliminate sugar from your drinks. Get your favorite drink in the morning, but when your dying for a pick-me-up after lunch, stick to an unsweetened drink. That’s when you probably want to avoid the crash, anyway,
Get more rest
When you feel tired after a cup of coffee, it means that you’re tired. Instead of figuring out how you can trick your body into being energetic and alert, you can just decide to listen to it. By taking a break or sleeping more, you can avoid the tiredness that comes with caffeine altogether, removing the only drawback that comes with your favorite morning beverage.
When you have enough sleep, you can actually maximize the benefits of caffeine. Even on a full night of sleep, your body will feel tired in the early afternoon. That’s where caffeine comes in. Because you’re well rested, your brain produces a smaller amount of adenosine, meaning that your caffeine intake will easily boost your energy, make you more alert, and give you the energy you need to tackle the rest of the day.
Incorporating Caffeine Into Your Life
Caffeine is an almost inevitable part of modern-day life. It’s added to medicine, every soda has some, and the two most popular drinks in the world, coffee and tea, are loaded with it. It has a host of benefits with relatively few drawbacks. Whether you find yourself suffering from the caffeine crash, or just have a high caffeine tolerance, its important to incorporate caffeine into your life in a healthy way.
By cutting back on your caffeine intake, or by strategically boosting your caffeine, you can really reduce the drawbacks. You can cut out suge, or you can just listen to your body and sleep more. All of these options will help you combat the fatigue and drowsiness that sometimes come with caffeine consumption.