Coffee has been part of human culture for a long time. It has a great history and besides its ritualistic use, it is most commonly regarded as an “upper” by people who wake up early, have to stay up late, or feel tired in the middle of the day. We are so accustomed to the use of coffee as a form of invigorator, something to keep us up or wake us up, that many readers may find the following information quite entertaining if not outright surprising.
Why coffee makes you tired
According to scientific research, the reason many people get tired after drinking coffee is due to a chemical in coffee called adenosine. The caffeine in coffee blocks adenosine receptors in your brain from receiving adenosine, which is a neurotransmitter that causes fatigue. Although caffeine prevents your brain from receiving adenosine, it doesn’t stop your body from producing the neurotransmitter. Thus, when the caffeine wears off, there is a buildup of adenosine that will make you sleepy.
Some people may have experienced this in one way or another — waking up early before work or school and going to bed late again the following night, just to repeat the cycle again. One day, you may come home after school or work having drunk the last coffee or black tea a few hours back. You have a bite to eat and then sit down, browse or watch some TV, and suddenly it hits you — tiredness, being very tired. Caffeine isn’t making you sleepy, because it doesn’t impact how much adenosine your body manufacturers. It merely delays the effects of that adenosine so that you feel it all at once in a rush when the caffeine wears off.
Sugar crash after sweet coffee
Another reason coffee may make you tired is when you drink coffee that’s especially sweet. Because the sugar is processed much faster than the coffee in your body, it leaves you with a kind of physical down afterward and you may experience what is regarded as a “sugar crash” shortly after drinking a very sweet coffee.
I experienced this and regretted it. There I was, a long day ahead, calling for my full attention and hours of focus to manage the tasks ahead. Since I would stay up late and wake up early, I would be quite tired around midday. Thinking a coffee would be the best thing to get me back on track, plus some sugar on top, I would not hesitate to get myself something like a frappuccino or the like; basically, coffee and sugar with lots of crushed ice.
Usually, it would go well for the next hour or so, but then as time passed and the sugar got metabolized, it would hit me, a really deep dip in energy, making me feel even more drowsy than before. Honestly, looking back, those short energy spikes are really not worth it. It taught me that — as an old saying goes — “not everything shiny is gold.” If you are a sweet tooth and love coffee, then make sure you always have a bottle of water to go with that coffee or frappuccino. Sufficient hydration does wonders, in my experience. Just to elaborate further, you should always drink at least the same amount, if not twice as much, water as you did coffee.
The sleepy by dehydration cycle
Coffee is a diuretic. In other words, it makes you have to urinate. Consuming it to stay awake may most likely lead to a vicious dehydrating cycle that may have the opposite effect from keeping you awake. The following is an example of the cycle:
- You drink a cup of coffee and soon afterward need to use the bathroom.
- When you go to the bathroom, your body loses water.
- When your body loses water, your blood thickens.
- When your blood thickens, it moves more slowly through your arteries and veins.
- As your blood slows down, it delivers less oxygen to your body.
- Without as much oxygen, you become sluggish.
- You may reach for more coffee to combat the sluggishness, thus starting the cycle again.
Most people will drink a lot of coffee throughout the day, but they may disregard drinking enough water to rehydrate the body. Above all, coffee also acts as a vasoconstrictor. Put simply, coffee makes your arteries and veins get narrower. If you are already in a state of dehydration as illustrated by the cycle above, the narrowing of your arteries and veins may make it even more difficult for already thickened blood to flow through them.
Dialectic approach to coffee
Now, after reading the aforementioned, you may easily think: “Oh, in that case, coffee is bad. I should stop drinking it.” Coffee itself is not good or bad. Neither are the effects mentioned above inherently good or bad; it all depends on context and when and how much coffee you drink and what type of person you are. For example, depending on people’s physical condition, one person may benefit from the effect of coffee while another may not benefit at all. It’s all relative. But one thing is for sure, conscious consumption of coffee is very important. Taking a break from coffee for a while every now and then, say a week or two at a time, may allow your body to readjust itself from the effects of coffee.