Why Does Coffee Make Me Tired? (ADHD)

Updated on September 18, 2023
 by — reviewed by Jason Williams, PhD (Contributor: George Collins / Editor: Yoko Hill)
why does coffee make me tired adhd

Why does coffee make me tired? (ADHD)

Coffee is a daily ritual for many, providing a much-needed jolt of energy to start the day. But have you ever found yourself feeling tired after indulging in a cup of joe?

It turns out, there are several factors at play that can make coffee leave you feeling sluggish instead of energized. 

In this article, we'll explore the reasons behind this phenomenon and discuss what you can do to counteract its effects.

So grab your favorite mug and let's dive into the science behind why coffee can make you feel tired.

Understanding Caffeine And its Effects

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 a natural nootropic, especially when combined with L-Theanine supplements.(1)

The effects of premium dietary caffeine supplementation on the body 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.
  • Enhanced Memory and Learning: Research suggests that caffeine may have a positive impact on memory and learning in individuals with ADHD. It has been found to improve spatial learning and memory in animal models of ADHD.(2) While more studies are needed in humans, the potential cognitive benefits of caffeine are promising.
  • 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.
  • Potential as an Adjunct Treatment: Although caffeine is not recommended as a standalone treatment for ADHD, it may have the 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. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before considering this combination.
  • 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.

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

Coffee and ADHD: A Possible Connection

There is growing interest in exploring the potential connection between coffee and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

It has been observed that many individuals with ADHD have a paradoxical reaction or little to no response to caffeine, which is commonly found in coffee.

This paradoxical reaction refers to the opposite effect that caffeine has on individuals with ADHD compared to its stimulant properties in the general population.

While stimulants like caffeine can enhance concentration for some people with ADHD, it is important to note that caffeine alone is not as effective as prescription medications used to treat ADHD.

However, the paradoxical reaction experienced by some individuals with ADHD when consuming caffeine suggests that there may be an underlying relationship between coffee and the symptoms of ADHD.

Further research is needed to better understand this paradoxical effect and its implications for individuals with ADHD. By investigating the connection between coffee and ADHD, scientists may gain insights into the neurobiology and pathophysiology of this condition.

This could potentially lead to the development of alternative or complementary ADHD treatments that are more tailored to individual needs.

How ADHD Affects the Body's Response to Stimulants

People with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) often have a unique physiological response to stimulant medications compared to those without the condition. This distinctive reaction is influenced by the functioning of the ADHD brain and the activity of neurotransmitters.

Let's delve deeper into how ADHD can affect the body's response to stimulants.

  1. Varied Stimulant Responses: Individuals with ADHD can have different responses to stimulant medications. While some experience significant improvements in focus, attention, and impulse control, others may find the benefits lessened over time. This phenomenon is known as tolerance, where the effectiveness of the medication diminishes with repeated administration.
  2. Neurobiological Adaptation: Physiological research suggests that the development of tolerance in ADHD patients is associated with biological adaptations in the brain. Stimulant medications influence neurons and specific brain regions involved in attention and impulse regulation. These changes can contribute to the development of pharmacodynamic tolerance.
  3. Cellular Changes and Clinical Efficacy: Despite the cellular changes observed in studies, stimulant medications continue to demonstrate clinical effectiveness in managing ADHD symptoms. Even though neurons and brain regions adapt to the medication, the therapeutic benefits persist, albeit potentially diminished over time.
  4. Early and Late Tolerance: Tolerance to stimulant medication can manifest differently in individuals with ADHD. Some patients may experience "early tolerance," whereby the benefits wear off relatively quickly after starting the medication. On the other hand, others may develop a more gradual or "late tolerance" over an extended period, possibly spanning years.
  5. Impact of Long-term Treatment: Long-term follow-up studies reveal that the response to medication may decrease over time in a significant percentage of ADHD patients. This suggests that the efficacy of stimulant medications may lessen over longer durations of treatment.

Alternative Treatments for People 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.(3)
  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.(4)
  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,(5) 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, we have explored the fascinating relationship between caffeine, ADHD, and sleepiness. While it may seem counterintuitive, caffeine can actually have a calming effect on individuals with ADHD due to its impact on dopamine levels.

This knowledge can help healthcare professionals make informed decisions about caffeine consumption for neurodivergent individuals.

However, it's important to remember that every person is unique, and alternative options such as nootropics may be worth considering if caffeine causes excessive sleepiness.

As always, consult with a doctor to determine the best course of action to take!