Does Caffeine Make People with ADHD Tired?

Updated on August 20, 2023
 by — reviewed by Jason Williams, PhD (Contributor: George Collins / Editor: Yoko Hill)
how does caffiene affect people with adhd

Does caffeine make people with ADHD tired?

Do you ever find that after drinking caffeine, you actually feel sleepy instead of energized? If you have ADHD, you may have also noticed this peculiar effect of caffeine. 

But is there any truth to the claim that caffeine makes all people with ADHD tired? 

In this article, we'll delve into the topic and explore the scientific evidence behind the relationship between caffeine and fatigue in individuals with ADHD. 

So, if you've ever wondered about the effects of caffeine on ADHD, keep reading to discover the truth.

Understanding ADHD and Its Symptoms

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. It affects both children and adults, often resulting in significant challenges in daily functioning.

ADHD symptoms can vary in severity and presentation. Inattention symptoms include:

  • Difficulties sustaining attention
  • Being easily distracted
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Impulsive actions without considering the consequences
  • Excessive fidgeting
  • Restlessness

These symptoms can significantly impact individuals' lives.

Left unaddressed, ADHD can persist into adulthood, contributing to difficulties in maintaining steady employment, managing responsibilities, and maintaining healthy relationships.

For adults, ADHD may be associated with mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or conduct disorders.

Additionally, individuals with ADHD often experience challenges in their professional and personal lives due to difficulties with organization, time management, and impulsivity.

The Role of Caffeine in the Body

Caffeine is a stimulant that is commonly found in beverages such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks. When consumed, caffeine works by blocking adenosine receptors in the body.

Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and sleep. By blocking these receptors, caffeine prevents adenosine from binding to them, leading to increased alertness and wakefulness. This gives caffeine a surprising potential as an ADHD supplement and natural nootropic.

The effects of premium dietary caffeine supplements are wide-ranging, providing the following benefits for people with ADHD:

  • Improved Focus and Attention: Caffeine, being a stimulant, can enhance focus and attention in individuals with ADHD. It increases the levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, attention, and movement. Studies have shown that caffeine can improve alertness and concentration, making it a potential aid for individuals with ADHD.(1)
  • Enhanced Memory and Learning: Research suggests that caffeine may have a positive impact on memory and learning in young adults.(2)
  • Increased Alertness and Energy: One of the primary effects of caffeine is increased alertness and energy levels. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with ADHD who often struggle with sluggishness and daytime sleepiness. By promoting wakefulness, caffeine can help individuals stay more focused and engaged throughout the day.(3)
  • Potential as an Adjunct Treatment: Although caffeine is not recommended as a standalone treatment for ADHD, it may have potential as an adjunct therapy. Some researchers believe that combining caffeine with prescription medications used to treat ADHD may enhance the effects of these medications.
  • Quick Onset and Short Duration: Unlike some ADHD medications that take time to kick in and last for an extended period, the effects of caffeine can be felt relatively quickly and are short-lived. This can be advantageous for individuals who need immediate relief from ADHD symptoms or who prefer not to be under the influence of medication all day.(4)

Additionally, when combined with L-Theanine (an amino acid), caffeine has the potential to make up one of the most powerful and effective nootropic stacks.(5)

The best way for someone with ADHD to use caffeine as a nootropic to treat ADHD would be through the form of premium-grade dietary caffeine supplements. 

These supplements come in regulated doses and are manufactured in facilities that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Does Caffeine Make People With ADHD Sleepy?

Caffeine can sometimes make individuals with ADHD feel tired. This isn't typically a direct result of the caffeine intake, but rather the effects of caffeine. It's essential to note that reactions to caffeine can vary among individuals with ADHD.

Typically, what happens is that caffeine works by occupying the same brain receptors as adenosine, a molecule that makes us feel sleepy. By preventing adenosine from binding to these receptors, caffeine temporarily suppresses sleep pressure, making us feel more awake.

However, as the effects of caffeine wear off, adenosine builds up in the body, resulting in an elevated level of sleep pressure. Ultimately, this leads to increased tiredness and fatigue.

Furthermore, individuals with ADHD who consume caffeine may experience idiosyncratic reactions.

Some individuals report not feeling any reaction to caffeine, while others may react paradoxically and become even more awake. This inconsistency in response to caffeine may be genetically determined and stable over time.

However, it is important to recognize that caffeine can negatively impact sleep and exacerbate fatigue in the long run.

Other Factors That Can Influence Caffeine's Effects

While caffeine is known to increase alertness and improve focus, its impact can be influenced by several factors. 

Understanding these additional factors can help individuals with ADHD make informed decisions about their caffeine consumption and manage their symptoms effectively.

These factors include:

  • ADHD Medication: ADHD medication, such as stimulants like methylphenidate (Ritalin) or amphetamines (Adderall), can interact with caffeine and potentially amplify its effects. Both caffeine and ADHD medications stimulate the central nervous system, increasing wakefulness and attention. When used together, they may lead to increased restlessness, anxiety, and a higher risk of experiencing side effects like rapid heartbeat or jitteriness.
  • Sleep Patterns: Sleep deprivation is common among individuals with ADHD, and it can further affect how they respond to caffeine. Lack of sleep can lead to an increased reliance on caffeine as a way to stay awake and alert. However, excessive caffeine consumption can disrupt sleep patterns, exacerbating sleep problems and ultimately worsening ADHD symptoms. It becomes a cycle where individuals rely on caffeine for energy but struggle to get quality sleep. It is important for individuals with ADHD to prioritize healthy sleep habits and limit their caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon and evening.
  • Overall Health Factors: Various health factors can influence how caffeine affects individuals with ADHD. These factors include metabolism, sensitivity to caffeine, and other underlying health conditions. Metabolism plays a role in how quickly caffeine is processed by the body, affecting its duration and intensity of effects. Some individuals may be more sensitive to the stimulating effects of caffeine, experiencing increased anxiety or restlessness.
  • The Amount of Caffeine Consumed: In some cases, people with ADHD drink more than 400mg (the recommended limit for caffeine) in a day through coffee or caffeinated drinks. Too much caffeine can lead to unwanted side effects, such as fatigue, headaches, upset stomach, and sleeping problems.

Therefore, it is important for individuals with ADHD to consider not only their medication use but also their sleep patterns and overall health when consuming caffeine.

It is beneficial to limit or avoid caffeine intake later in the day, to promote better sleep quality and minimize potential negative effects on ADHD symptoms. 

Alternative Nootropics to Caffeine for ADHD

Getting enough rest is vital for those with ADHD. If you're finding that caffeine supplementation isn't keeping you awake during the day, then a different method of treatment is needed. 

There are many natural nootropics that work to manage the symptoms of ADHD, as well as over-the-counter stimulant medication options that are similar to Adderall. These options do not require a prescription and also don't carry the same risk of addiction that common ADHD medication does. 

Here are the best nootropics for non-invasive ADHD treatment: 

  1. Panax Ginseng: A popular herbal supplement known for its cognitive-enhancing properties. Research suggests that Panax ginseng may improve memory, attention, and overall cognitive function, making it a potential alternative to caffeine for individuals with ADHD.(6)
  2. Choline: Choline is an essential nutrient that plays a critical role in brain health and function. It is involved in the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter important for memory and learning. Supplementing with choline may support cognitive function and provide an alternative to caffeine for those with ADHD.(7)
  3. Vyvamind: Vyvamind is a natural nootropic specifically formulated to support cognitive function in individuals with ADHD. It contains a blend of clinically studied ingredients, including vitamins, minerals, and herbal extracts, that may improve focus, concentration, and mental clarity without the need for caffeine.
  4. NooCube: NooCube is a popular nootropic stack that combines several ingredients known for their cognitive-enhancing effects. It includes Alpha GPC, Bacopa Monnieri, Huperzine A, and other brain-boosting compounds. Noocube may provide an effective alternative to caffeine for individuals with ADHD seeking improved focus and mental performance.
  5. Nooceptin: Nooceptin is another nootropic supplement designed to support cognitive function in individuals with ADHD. It contains ingredients such as L-Theanine, L-Tyrosine,(8) and Alpha GPC, which may help improve attention, memory, and overall mental performance without the need for caffeine.
  6. Mind Lab Pro: Mind Lab Pro is a comprehensive nootropic stack that combines multiple ingredients to enhance various aspects of cognitive function. It includes Bacopa Monnieri, Lion's Mane Mushroom, Phosphatidylserine, and other brain-boosting compounds. Mind Lab Pro may offer a caffeine-free alternative for individuals with ADHD looking to improve their focus and mental clarity.
  7. Modafinil: Modafinil is a prescription medication that is often used off-label to treat ADHD symptoms. It works by increasing wakefulness and promoting alertness without the need for caffeine. Modafinil should only be taken under the guidance of a healthcare professional.


In conclusion, while caffeine may initially seem beneficial for individuals with ADHD by improving focus and alertness, its long-term effects can actually lead to increased fatigue. Understanding the paradoxical effects of caffeine in individuals with ADHD is crucial for developing effective management strategies and promoting overall well-being.

Additionally, for those looking for over-the-counter treatments to manage ADHD symptoms, there are several alternatives to choose from. These include a list of natural nootropics and effective alternatives to Adderall. 

Nootropics can be used alongside caffeine pills to manage the symptoms of ADHD and boost cognitive function.

Remember to consult with your healthcare provider about switching your medication or adding to your supplementation regimen. A doctor can give you guidance as to the best routine for your chosen nootropic.