Coffee Makes Me Tired? 9 Causes and Solutions

Although it might seem paradoxical at first, coffee can make some people even more tired than they were before ingesting caffeine. Is this even possible? After all, caffeine, coffee’s active ingredient, helps you stay awake, which is why people drink it in the first place. This is possible thanks to Adenosine receptors- caffeine blocks Adenosine from signaling your brain that you need sleep.

coffee makes me tired

1. High Blood Pressure

By affecting your sympathetic nervous system, coffee increases blood pressure. If you ingested too much caffeine, or if you have hypertension, you’ll most likely end up with high blood pressure, which is a rather serious acute health condition. Some of the most conspicuous signs of high blood pressure are:

1.     Headache

2.     Fatigue

3.     Difficult breathing

4.     Chest pain

As you can see, fatigue is one of the most frequent symptoms of high blood pressure. If you consistently feel tired and/or have other symptoms from our list, it would be smart to contact your doctor and check your blood pressure.

In other words, fatigue and tiredness may be some of the most insidious signs of a serious health condition, so don’t gamble!

2. Lack of Hydration

We don’t drink enough water in the first place. There are even some applications that remind you it’s time to drink water (?!). And considering that coffee is a diuretic, and makes you excrete water even faster, it’s safe to say that coffee can be one of the most neglected causes of dehydration. Especially when you know that practically everybody drinks coffee (in large amounts). Caffeine also speeds up the activity of the gastrointestinal system, which also dehydrates you, and takes away the much-needed energy from you.

Needless to say, dehydration has many repercussions for the body, one of which is the feeling of drowsiness or fatigue.

One of the worst problems is that people who drink a lot of coffee and feel tired try to counteract these unwanted effects by drinking even more coffee. Needless to say, this “re-dosing” should be avoided at all costs. As we’ve seen in the last section, too much caffeine leads to various acute health complications.

3. Coffee and Anemia

Simply put, anemia is a health condition characterized by a deficient mechanism of iron absorption. Iron is one of the essential elements that helps our body function the way it should. Numerous studies found that coffee (and other beverages, like tea) inhibit iron absorption (Hurrell, Reddy & Cook, 1999; Morck, Lynch & Cook, 1983). While coffee most probably won’t cause anemia in otherwise healthy individuals, people who are already suffering from anemia might find their symptoms exacerbated by the consumption of coffee.

One of the most conspicuous signs of anemia, chronic fatigue, will most probably be perpetuated even more as a result of caffeine ingestion.

4. Coffee and Diabetes

Although coffee might decrease the risk of diabetes in healthy individuals, the consumption of this caffeinated beverage might complicate the already worrying symptoms of diabetes (type II). Due to its complicated effects on the whole body, coffee alters the blood sugar levels. For healthy individuals, this isn’t a problem, but such alteration of blood sugar levels will cause some unwanted effects in diabetics (Mayo Clinic, n.d.).

One of the most frequent signs of diabetes is exhaustion and the lack of energy. Other signs include:

  1. Blurry vision
  2. Slow healing of wounds
  3. Frequent urination (blood in urine)

If you experience severe exhaustion alongside these symptoms, consider checking your blood sugar levels, just in case.

5. Coffee and Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia is a health condition characterized by extremely low blood sugar levels. As mentioned earlier, diabetes can cause hypoglycemia. More specifically, the treatment of diabetes (insulin), sometimes results in hypoglycemia (Mayo Clinic: “Hypoglycemia”, n.d.).

On the other hand, extremely low blood sugar levels can appear as symptoms in other disorders. While diabetes is the chief cause of hypoglycemia, pay attention to your coffee intake if you are:

  1. Taking medications – the treatment of malaria sometimes results in kidney failure and hypoglycemia. This is due to quinine, one of the main remedies for malaria.
  2. Alcohol – substance abuse disorder related to alcohol consumption often results in severe liver damage. A damaged liver cannot release stored glucose (sugar) efficiently enough, thus causing hypoglycemia. Also, acute alcohol intoxication hinders otherwise healthy liver from doing its job, which also leads to hypoglycemia.
  3. Hepatitis
  4. Kidney illnesses
  5. Anorexia
  6. Abulia
  7. Insulinoma (pancreas tumor)

6. Pushing it Too Far

Even though caffeine doesn’t make you tired, that 10th cup of coffee you’ve drunk to give yourself one last push during a sleepless night was uncalled for. If you’ve been “binging” on caffeine for an extended period, “re-dosing” simply won’t help. Quite the contrary, it will make everything even worse.

7. Food intake

As we’ve mentioned in the last section, coffee speeds up the activity of the digestive tract, thus making you burn those calories faster. While this might be a good way to lose a pound or two, it most certainly won’t make you more alert and awake. Quite the contrary. When the main effect of caffeine wears off, you’ll possibly feel hungry or even dizzy.

This won’t be much of a problem, only if our habits were a bit healthier. But considering that most of us get up in the morning, take a quick shower, and grab a coffee on our way to work, coffee can make you lose energy even faster. And when you drink coffee on an empty belly, you suppress the effect you want to get- instead of being more alert, you end up worse off as the caffeine exhausts all the energy from your body.

8. Caffeine Is A Complex Substance

Simply put, we don’t exactly know how the human brain works. We know bits and pieces, but not everything. Although caffeine is usually classified as a stimulant, this substance can sometimes cause drowsiness and other similar effects. This has been proven a long time ago, by British scientists (Sawyer, Julia & Turin, 1981). Especially if you try to “caffeinate” yourself by ingesting large amounts of caffeine, your body might start to react quite strangely to this chemical, causing you sedation-like and drowsiness symptoms.

Some people have these kinds of reactions even when they drink coffee in moderation. Nausea, vertigo, and confusion are some of the most frequent symptoms these people report. So if you consistently feel these symptoms while you’re drinking your favorite caffeine drink, it would be smart to consider some alternatives.

9. Too Much Sugar

Sugar is the energy of our organism. Sugars are nutrients that get absorbed the fastest and are almost immediately burned to provide you with additional energy. Today, most commercial coffees have lots and lots of sugars. This is not surprising at all. What is surprising is that people drink their extra-long coffees which are oversaturated with sugar, and expect to feel completely fine. Just as you feel the sudden onset of energy only a few minutes after ingesting sugar, so you’ll feel a sudden decrease in energy about an hour later. In other words, “caffeine drowsiness” sometimes has nothing to do with caffeine at all! It’s the adverse effect of excessive sugar intake.

Solutions

We’ll lay out the most convenient and efficient solution as we’ve ordered the initial sections:

  • Instead of binging on caffeine for 24 hours straight, get a short nap. Even though it doesn’t seem so, a 30-minute nap will refresh you and give you energy for that one last push. Don’t believe us, try it! Numerous studies have proven the beneficial effects of short naps (Ruggiero & Redeker, 2013; Mednick, Cai, Kanady & Drummond 2008). One of the most brilliant minds ever, Nikola Tesla, also held naps in high regards and “used” them extensively.
  • Next time you drink coffee, pay close attention and contact your doctor if you notice symptoms like headache, fatigue, chest pain, blurred vision, pounding in ears (and tinnitus). When alone, fatigue might be a rather “innocent” symptom. On the other hand, it’s rare to get a nasty headache after you drink one cup of coffee. Headache sometimes appears when you stop ingesting caffeine, and it’s a part of coffee withdrawal symptoms.
  • Hydration is perhaps the easiest problem to solve. Simply drink more water. As we all know, 2l per day should be enough for most people. During the summer, this may amount to 3l or even more, if you do some physically demanding activities. If you add a few cups of coffee (which acts as a diuretic), you’ll have to drink even more water.
  • Pay attention to your nutrition- we’ve mentioned that coffee can inhibit iron absorption in your body. This unwanted effect can be avoided by having a meal 1 hour after you drink the cup of your favorite “java”. You should also avoid drinking coffee on an empty stomach.
  • Pay attention to these signs of anemia, if you notice them, contact your doctor immediately, and, of course, stop drinking coffee:

a. Chronic fatigue; you get tired easily

b. Fast heartbeat, even with the slightest exertion

c. Short breath and headache

d. Paleness

e. Insomnia

f. Concentration problems

 Women more frequently suffer from this illness than men. There are various ways to treat anemia, one of which is ingesting more meat (especially red meat).

  • Be Careful With Sugar- this aspect is linked closely with hydration, as a lot of people drink a lot of flavored drinks that have a lot of added sugars. Standard Coca-Cola, for instance, has 10,9 g per 100 ml. This is a lot. If you drink only 1l of Coke, you ingest 109 g of pure sugar!!! Just imagine eating 100 g of sugar powder! You’d probably throw up. Similarly, if you drink tall commercial coffees that have loads of sugar, you’ll end up with the so-called “sugar high”. And after this high ends, you’ll feel the onset of fatigue and tiredness. So simply stay away from sugar. It’s bad for your health, and it will possibly completely ruin otherwise beneficial effects of caffeine.

In other words, drink black coffee, or just add a bit of sugar, nothing much. Yes, the taste will be much more bitter, but it’s not that hard to get used to it.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many answers to why coffee makes you tired. Usually, this problem can be solved by a slight adjustment of your habits: you can, for example, increase your water intake, or reorder your meals so you minimize inhibiting iron absorption properties of coffee.

On the other hand, feeling tired after drinking coffee can be an insidious sign of serious health conditions. High blood pressure, anemia, and diabetes can all lurk behind this seemingly “innocent” symptom. Similarly, if you are already diagnosed with one of these illnesses, it won’t be surprising to see coffee aggravating the symptom of anemia, diabetes, or hypertension. In this case, it would be smart to immediately cease the consumption of coffee and contact your doctor.  

Ivan is a 24-year old graphic design and computer science student from Serbia who loves driving motorcycle in his free time and is absolutely obsessed with nature, sports and hanging out with friends.

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