Written by Sofia Moore
Last Updated

Coffee is the go-to drink for people looking for a pick-me-up to put in your coffee thermos or needing help to wake up first thing in the morning, so it may come as a surprise to learn that in some circumstances your coffee can actually make you feel more sleepy and tired than before. 

The caffeine is what gives us that kick and creates a hyper-alert state if you drink too much, creating a jittery and anxious feeling that all coffee lovers will know only too well. But you may not realize that caffeine can also make you tired. 

Caffeine affects your body in many different ways so here are several reasons why your coffee might be making you feel sleepy instead of alert.

Coffee Affects Adenosine

The adenosine receptors in your brain are what help you to sleep and are the elements that control your sleeping cycle. If you drink coffee, the caffeine sticks to certain parts of your body, including your adenosine receptors. 

While the caffeine is attached to those receptors, your brain doesn’t process the adenosine, but the chemical is still present. So, when the caffeine wears off you have a build-up of this in your receptors which will make you feel very tired.

 

You Might Be Dehydrated

Being dehydrated can make you feel tired, and coffee acts as a diuretic, making you need to go to the bathroom more than normal. If you drink a lot of coffee, you might find yourself spending more time on the toilet and feeling tired. 

The key to avoiding this is to drink less coffee and perhaps drink some water with each cup of coffee, to replace the fluids that you are losing when you go to the bathroom. If you get severe dehydration symptoms you will need medical help.

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What Do You Add to Your Coffee?

Your tiredness might not be due to the caffeine but to the extra ingredients, you put into your coffee. If you add cream, sugar, or syrups to your coffee, your body will produce more insulin to counteract all the extra sugar. 

This means your blood sugar levels drop which makes you feel tired. It’s known as a sugar crash and it can also make you feel dizzy and irritable as well. It might not even be what you add to your coffee. 

If you drink orange juice and a cookie with your morning coffee, you will be increasing those sugar levels and are likely to experience the same tired sugar crash effect. So, if you are always tired after your coffee, check what else you are consuming at the same time.

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It Could Be Mold Contamination

It might not be genuinely nice to think about, but one of the things that causes tiredness is mold contamination. Raw coffee beans can contain mold which holds mycotoxins and even if these are within the legal limit, these substances can cause chronic fatigue in some people. 

 

It Could Be a Response to Adrenaline

When you are stressed, your body produces adrenaline, which can keep you awake at night and feeling tired during the day. When you drink caffeine, it raises your adrenaline levels giving your body the same reaction as you have to stress. 

This means your body might then turn from overactive, while the adrenaline levels are high, like when you feel stressed out, into a sleepy stupor to help your body cope with the stress, or in this case, caffeine.

 

It Could Be Caffeine Withdrawal

If you drink coffee all the time and then stop or reduce the amount you drink suddenly, you can suffer from caffeine withdrawal, which can make you very tired. The other symptoms of withdrawal include headache and trouble concentrating. 

Symptoms shouldn’t last too long and will be gone after a few days, but if you want to avoid it you should just cut back gradually rather than stop in one go.

 

It Could Just Be Wearing Off

Caffeine kicks in quickly but after a few hours, it will have been metabolized and will start to leave your body, so you may start feeling tired simply because the caffeine kick has run its course and left your system. 

Your caffeine fix in the morning is not a permanent solution to feeling tired and needing more energy so by the afternoon it is bound to be wearing off and might be responsible for your feeling like you need a nap straight after lunch.

 

You May Have Developed a Tolerance

If you drink coffee regularly you might start to feel the effects less because your body has built up a tolerance to caffeine, so your usual coffee won’t give you the kick you were hoping for and you will still feel tired.

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Caffeine Might Stop You Sleeping

If you drink coffee too close to bedtime, it can keep you awake and affect your sleep patterns, making you feel tired during the day. Caffeine stays in your system for many hours so be careful when you drink it, or it could end up making you tired instead of helping your energy levels. 

It’s better to keep your caffeine intake to earlier in the day to avoid this becoming an issue, and then switch to decaf drinks from lunchtime onwards so that you know the caffeine has left your system before you go to bed in the evening.

 

Caffeine is often the choice when we feel tired and need an energy boost, but it does affect our bodies in different ways, so it’s important to be aware of your favorite coffee brew is causing problems with your sleep pattern, or leaving you feeling worse than before you drank it. 

If caffeine causes you to feel sleepy and tired all the time then why not switch over to a decaf version instead, that way you can continue to enjoy the taste and flavor of your favorite brew without all the nasty caffeine after-effects.

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