Why does caffeine make you feel tired?

September 07, 2019 4 min read

Why does caffeine make you feel tired?

TL;DR If you often find yourself yawning after your cup of joe, then two things may be happening - caffeine crash or caffeine hangover. This article will introduce these two concepts plus other bonus reasons why, and how you can prevent them from happening.

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Caffeine is a surefire way to keep you awake, right?

Wrong.

While caffeine can help keep you awake, it could also go the other way.

Just as when you need your caffeine fix to pull yourself out of misery – aka midday slump – the opposite happens. You pass out. You wake up. Lo and behold - your face is on your office keyboard!

As a stimulant, caffeine’s supposed to perk us up right?

But why does it make us feel tired instead?

In this article, we’ll introduce two concepts that could probably explain why it happens to you, and how you can prevent that from happening.

 

Why you feel tired after coffee

When you start feeling like your soul is leaving your body post-caffeine, you’re not going through transcendence. Just one of these two phenomena is happening:

 

Caffeine crash

A caffeine crash happens after taking in moderate to high dose of caffeine. Basically, it’s that moment when you feel like you’ve run a few miles after your first cup of coffee and feel like going back to bed (twist: you don’t really run).

Curious what happens behind-the-scenes? Here it goes:

“Caffeine has been associated with enhancing the ability to perform mental tasks and elevate feelings of energy, however, a single dose of caffeine typically induces only 90-120 minutes of increased alertness and is often associated with an acute “crash” state following its metabolism.”[1]

 

Caffeine hangover

Believe it or not - this is a thing!

Caffeine hangover is like waking up with a bad hangover from downing bottomless cups of joe.

It happens after shocking your system with one too many cups of coffee or tea and your body just can’t keep up with the caffeine rush. You then go through the usual signs of a hangover - the feeling of being too tired and lazy to move, with nausea and vomiting to boot.

 

via GIPHY

 

Why you get caffeine crash

If you’re curious about what causes caffeine crash, Healthline has put together a list of the main reasons for “crashing.” [2]

 

Adenosine build up

To get some background, let's review for a minute from this article how caffeine keeps us awake.

Caffeine blocks adenosine, the sleep-inducing molecule in your body that causes sleepiness, from binding into its receptors. As an “adenosine receptor antagonist,” caffeine binds into the receptors so it blocks adenosine and inhibits the latter’s effects on your body.

While this all happens, the body continues to produce adenosine, which awaits its turn to bind to the receptors. This causes adenosine build up. When caffeine’s effects wane, the excess adenosine finally binding into the receptors causes the feeling of exhaustion.

 

via GIPHY

 

Caffeine is a diuretic

We’ve found out in the article “Does coffee dehydrate you?” that caffeine is a diuretic. In non-scientific, everyday terms, it means that caffeine makes you pee more.

How does this make you feel tired and sluggish, you ask.

When you make a trip to the bathroom, you lose water in the body, which then reduces the amount of fluid in your blood. This means that being dehydrated causes your heart to beat faster and makes your blood pressure lower - exactly the reasons why you feel fatigued.


via GIPHY

  

Sugar rush leading to sugar crash

If drinking black coffee is not your cup of tea (pun intended), then you’re likely to add in a little bit more sugar, honey and cream to your java fix. Going a little extra on your coffee may cause you to go through a sugar rush, and after a few more minutes/hours, a sugar crash. That’s when you go from a bubbly hero to a sleepy zero.

 

via GIPHY

 

Symptoms of caffeine crash and hangover

It’s easy to spot a caffeine crash and hangover. When you see the supposedly positive and desired effects of caffeine going south, then you’re in for some trouble. Specifically, the symptoms may go from being extremely exhausted, unable to focus, irritable and not in the mood, and just slumping back to bed or on your office desk (NSFW, like literally).

 

via GIPHY

 

 

How to NOT feel tired after your caffeine fix

  • Do NOT go overboard. The Spice Girls were right when they said: “too much of something is bad enough.” Just have the right amount of caffeine a day. How much is that you ask? Find out here.
  • Put some lining. Avoid drinking coffee or tea without having eaten anything. Your body needs fuel, and food is its main source. Without it, you’re just literally running on caffeine, which is a short-term fix and not sustainable.
  • Pace it throughout the day. Go from having 3-4 cups in the morning to 3-4 cups the entire day. That should make a heap of difference and sort out your afternoon slump!
  • Rest. Maybe the reason why you’re feeling tired is that you’re tired in the first place! Caffeine cannot solve exhaustion on its own. Listen to your body and give it a much-deserved rest.

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Got tips and hacks? Leave them in the comment section below! 

 

Sources

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4271602/

[2] https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/coffee-makes-me-tired

Tina Sendin
Tina Sendin


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