Can Coffee Actually Make You Feel Tired?

Everyone around the world knows that coffee or caffeine is a stimulant that boosts your energy levels and makes you feel more alert. Coffee is the go-to drink for so many people to start off their day. However, the fact is that not everybody reacts to caffeine in the same manner. Some people actually start to feel tired after having even one cup of coffee, while others can drink several cups without experiencing any side effects. The important fact to know here is that it’s not actually the coffee that makes you tired. It’s the manner in which it affects your body that can make you feel tired and sleepy. The consumption of caffeine signals the body to release hormones that increase your blood pressure and your heart rate. This allows more oxygenated blood to flow to your tissues, making you feel more alert and waking you up.

Can Coffee Actually Make You Feel Tired?

Can Coffee Actually make you feel Tired?

Here are some of the common reasons why coffee makes you feel tired:

Caffeine Blocks Adenosine: Adenosine is a chemical present in your central nervous system which regulates the sleep and waking cycle of the body. The adenosine levels in the body are high when you are awake and going about your work in the day. When the adenosine levels drop, you start feeling drowsy as adenosine then suppresses the activity of the basal forebrain. Caffeine blocks the adenosine receptions present in the brain from receiving adenosine. Caffeine also prevents the formation of any more adenosine receptors. Thus when the effect of caffeine wears off, there is a sudden increase in the level of adenosine that wants to go ahead and bind to its receptors. This is one of the factors that often cause certain people to feel tired.

Coffee Confuses Your Nervous System: Caffeine in the body causes you to feel alert. However, at the same time, it also confuses your nervous system to think that the body is not getting enough sleep. Too much caffeine can also have an effect on your ability to enter the phase of deep sleep. When you consume excessive caffeine, it kicks off a harmful cycle in the body. You feel more alert when you drink caffeine, but the same caffeine prevents you from sleeping, thus making you feel sluggish and drowsy. You continue to drink more coffee during the day to fight off these feelings of sluggishness. This dangerous trend can eventually manifest itself in the form of insomnia or affect the ability of your body to enter deep sleep. Whenever you feel like having another cup of coffee to fight off drowsiness during the day, reach for a glass of water instead to rehydrate your body. You will be surprised to see that water will also help get rid of your sluggishness.

Caffeine is a Diuretic: Caffeine is a known diuretic, meaning it causes to you urinate more frequently. This is also why drinking too much coffee can make increase the risk your dehydration. Try and notice if your need to urinate increases after having coffee. This may mean that you become stuck in a cycle of getting dehydrated without even realizing it. Dehydration is another factor that can make you feel more tired. Being dehydrated makes you feel sluggish and when you feel sluggish, you are bound to reach for another cup of coffee thus, restarting the cycle once again. You need to drink water in order to break this cycle and rehydrate yourself.

Caffeine simply ‘covers up’ Your Fatigue: A cup of coffee only serves to mask the symptoms your drowsiness. If you are tired and have to work or complete a project, this is beneficial for you. However, once the caffeine starts to wear off, then you will end up feeling even more tired than you were earlier. This is because you never got over your tiredness. Caffeine simply covered up your sluggishness and made you feel alert temporarily. This is why many people frequently find that they feel sleepy a couple of hours after having coffee. This has got nothing to do with the actual caffeine consumption, but everything to do with your continued lack of sleep.

Coffee can give you a Sugar Crash: If you are in the habit of having sweet coffee, you are likely to experience a sugar crash in sometime after you have your coffee. Your body processes sugar much faster than coffee and once your body uses up the sugar, you are left without any energy. Even coffee-flavored drinks are known to contain high levels of sugar in them and very little amount of actual caffeine. The feelings of alertness you experience after having these drinks is actually only a sugar rush and crash, and not really a caffeine boost.

How to Limit the Effects of Coffee?

If you observe that drinking coffee regularly makes you feel tired and sleepy, then there are a couple of things you can do to prevent or reduce their fatiguing impacts of caffeine. These include:

Cut down on your coffee intake. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should not be consuming more than 400 milligrams of caffeine in a day. This means that you should limit your caffeine intake to only around 2 to 4 cups daily.

Avoid consuming flavored coffee beverages that are loaded with sugar to prevent a sugar rush and crash. Also limit the usage of added sweeteners.

Don’t forget to consume plenty of water with your coffee. Drink a glass of water per every cup of coffee you consume in the day.

If after trying all these you still notice that you are frequently becoming tired after having coffee, then it is a good idea to try and switch to having tea, particularly after lunch, as compared to coffee. Tea is not only healthier but it is also unlikely to make you feel an afternoon slump.


Keep in mind that it is not only your morning cup of coffee that contains caffeine. Caffeine is present in many energy boosters, soft drinks, and even some painkillers contain caffeine. The actual impact caffeine has on your body also depends on the actual amount of coffee you consume from all sources during the entire day, and how frequently you are consuming caffeine.

Coffee, by itself, is not going you make you feel tired instantly. It will, no doubt, provide a boost of energy after you have your regular cup. However, over a period of time, you might start feeling fatigued if you start drinking coffee regularly. Strictly sticking to a certain amount of caffeine intake during the day and cutting back the sugar will help you avoid feeling tired after coffee, while at the same time you will be able to reap the benefits of coffee.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 3, 2019

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