Why Coffee Makes You Tired
Wait, what? Coffee is supposed to be energy-boosting, right?
Well yes. And no.
Yes, immediately following your daily cuppa, you will feel a boost in energy, but daily consumption of coffee is actually slowly degrading your energy over time without you realising it (shall touch on that just now) and at the same time, it’s making you dependent on coffee to function.
It's tough to know what to believe when it comes to coffee nowadays. Some health gurus are telling us that coffee is terrible for our health and that we should avoid it at all costs. Others can’t stop punting it as a health food or even a superfood that is packed with all sorts of beneficial antioxidants and phytochemicals that give us energy and help us perform better.
Coffee is definitely a double-edged sword, with many health benefits (lower risk of cardiovascular disease, lower risk of diabetes, promotes longevity, protects the liver); but it absolutely also does wreak havoc on your energy levels, and so also sometimes your sleep. While coffee can help protect us from several diseases and gives us a temporary boost in energy and performance, consuming it every day causes changes in our brain function during the time we don’t have caffeine in our system — it can impair our mood, worsen our performance, and lower our energy levels. You might very well suffer from low-level fatigue as a result of chronic caffeine use and might not even realise your daily cuppa is the reason why.
Ok so let’s back it up a sec – what exactly is caffeine?
It is a chemical stimulant that increases activity in certain parts of the brain and central nervous system. Caffeine is found naturally in several plant species and is consumed by billions of people all over the world on a regular basis – it’s in coffee, tea, fat burners, chocolate, soda and energy drinks. Now, unlike many drugs (and caffeine is a drug, by the way) it may be taken legally by people of all ages, so it’s the most widely used stimulant around. Get this - over 1 billion cups of coffee are consumed throughout the world every day.
Now let’s look at what the effects of caffeine are on the brain. This part is a bit sciency so stick with me. Caffeine affects a neurotransmitter in our brain called adenosine – the more adenosine we have in our bods, the more tired we will feel. Caffeine basically blocks adenosine receptors in the brain, which keeps you from feeling tired (ergo, it’s stimulating effect). Instant energy boost right there!
Problem is, once the caffeine effects wears off and it stops blocking adenosine from reaching the brain, you’re going to be tired AF, and your performance, mood and energy might be lower than ever. The scary thing is, if you keep drinking coffee daily, your brain will start to feel constantly overstimulated - by blocking adenosine all the time, you’ve created a chronic imbalance in your brain’s neurotransmitters where it feels that there are too much of the stimulating neurotransmitters and not enough of the relaxing neurotransmitters.
Your brain reckons there might be an adenosine shortage, so what does it do? It makes more adenosine receptors! And now you’re sitting with too many of ‘em.
And suddenly your brain needs more caffeine to ward off the increased adenosine, which leads to a craving for more caffeine. And the vicious cycle continues.
How can you combat the caffeine cycle?
- Cleanse your system completely – go off caffeine for 3-6 weeks to really reset your entire neurotransmitter system.
- Cycle on and off caffeine. Use it for one or two days, and then take two to three days off of it. Or use it for two weeks and then go off for two weeks.
See! You don't need to give up caffeine completely to benefit from better controlled energy levels, but everything in moderation is, as always, the key.
Your sleep will be so much better for it.
Written by Nina Clark, Nightire founder