Why Does Coffee Make Me Tired? Coffee Doesn't Help!

If you are like many adults, you love your morning cup of coffee. You may even find yourself drinking a few cups throughout the morning and into the afternoon. Maybe even all day long? However, have you ever found that coffee has the opposite effect on you? Perhaps rather than boosting your energy levels you find yourself more sleepy and ready to lay down and take a nap? If drinking coffee actually makes you feel more tired, fatigued, and sluggish, you aren’t crazy. There are actually reasons why coffee can have the energy-zapping effect on you instead. So let’s dive deeper into why coffee can make you tired and sleepy.

Why Do You Need Coffee In The First Place?

Heart Coffee

Some people drink coffee just for the taste and ritual enjoyed from having a delicious cup of joe. However, if we are being honest, many of us “need” coffee because we are overworked, not getting enough sleep, and in some cases, burning the candle at both ends. We are mentally unfocused, and in search of some mental clarity and pep in our step. Our bodies are worn out and we are looking for an outside source to give us the necessary energy to pull through the day. The caffeine within coffee is a potent stimulant that many of us are seeking.  It can increase alertness and boost our energy levels, making it the perfect vice to keep our days going. Surprisingly, it can also have a few side effects, that in reality, have the opposite impact.

Reasons Why You Feel Tired Or Sleepy After Having Coffee

Caffeine Blocks Adenosine Receptors

Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors

Our brains contain a neurotransmitter named adenosine, along with adenosine receptors. When adenosine binds to these receptors, it causes nerve cell activity to slow and induces drowsiness. It also leads to vasodilation of the blood vessels to allow more oxygen into the brain during sleep.

Alternatively, caffeine also binds to adenosine receptors but behaves in a different way. Instead of slowing nerve cell activity and causing drowsiness, nerve cells speed up. It also causes the blood vessels in the brain to constrict (which can be the cause of some caffeine-induced headaches). Due to this increased nerve firing, the body senses that something is off and this ultimately leads to the adrenal glands producing adrenaline (epinephrine). This “fight or flight” hormone explains why after drinking a cup coffee or two, your muscles become more tense, you feel hyped up, your heart rate increases, and you may even notice your hands getting cooler.

Why does coffee make me sleepy? Adenosine receptors and caffeine.

The problem with caffeine occupying these adenosine receptors, is that the body does not know to make less of the adenosine neurotransmitter. Therefore, adenosine builds up. Due to this adenosine build up, when the caffeine wears off, there is even more adenosine available to bind to these receptors, making you even more sleepy. It’s not actually the caffeine making you sleepy but rather the rush of adenosine hitting your receptors all at once.

In addition, with increased adenosine circulating, the body makes more adenosine receptors to keep up. This is why some develop caffeine tolerances and need more and more coffee to receive the same effects. Unfortunately, this is the very reason coffee can make you feel sleepy. 

Coffee Dehydrates The Body

Coffee is a diuretic and can make you sleepy

Coffee is a diuretic, meaning it causes your body to excrete water. Dehydration can lead to a variety of symptoms including loss of energy and fatigue. If you are not working hard to counter balance and exceed this water loss, coffee can make you much more tired than the benefits you were hoping to achieve. Make sure to stay properly hydrated so that you can feel more awake, rejuvenated, and not sluggish.

The Sugar In Coffee Makes You Crash

Sugary coffee makes you sleepy

Do you fill your coffee with flavored creamers and sugars? It tastes so sweet and delicious! However, did you know, simple sugars actually spike your blood sugar levels? Unfortunately the dilemma with simple sugars is they don’t leave you feeling satisfied for long and can lead to a huge sugar crash as well. The same can be said for other sugary foods. The body will use up syrups, whip creams, and chocolate much more quickly than the caffeine. This can leave you tired and ready for a nap, rather than ready to take on your next task.

Coffee Can Lead to Adrenal Fatigue

Coffee can make you sleepy and lead to adrenal fatigue

In the long term, caffeine can burn out your adrenal glands. Adrenal glands are vital to our energy levels. Coffee can lead to a hypothalamic pituitary adrenal dysfunction, also known as adrenal fatigue. Caffeine tells the hypothalamus to alert the adrenal glands that they should produce cortisol, a stress hormone. However, when you give the body a natural stimulant like caffeine, the adrenal glands can actually produce less of it on their own over time. After all, why should they show up to work if someone else (like caffeine!) is doing the job for them? So even though you can get an immediate pick-me-up from consuming coffee, it can ultimately burn out your adrenal glands leaving you feeling more tired and unable to tackle the day with vigor. Healthy cortisol levels are essential in helping your body to deal with stress and maintain a well balanced, energetic self.

How to Avoid Feeling Tired After Coffee

Coffee, why does coffee make me tired? Coffee doesn't help!

Choose the right coffee bean

Aim for organic coffee and try not to exceed a cup or two a week. Coffee is one of the most pesticide-laden crops and it is these toxins that can lead to coffee jitters and shakes. Remind yourself to stay hydrated. Drink lots of water and consider alternatives such as green or herbal teas. Turn to stevia, monk fruit sweeteners, and full fat milks for added creaminess and sweetness. I personally love to use 100% organic coconut cream in my coffee, removing that sugar spike followed by a sudden dip in energy.

Stay hydrated

Remember, stay hydrated and listen to you body! If you are asking yourself why does coffee make me tired, it may be time to lay off the caffeine for a while, all while supporting your adrenal glands. Coffee is addictive by nature. The more you drink, the more your body (and adrenal glands) will need to keep up. The less coffee you drink, the less adenosine receptors the body will need to keep you at baseline.

For those drinking a lot of coffee on a regular basis, energy levels can chronically suffer, and you may not actually be experiencing a caffeine boost at all. Rather you are craving more and more coffee just to meet a basic energy baseline. If you begin to notice your body feeling sluggish, tired, or becoming addicted to caffeine, take a moment to reflect on your consumption habits and adjust accordingly. You’ve got this!

To your health and Happiness, doctor Danielle

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