Why Does Caffeine Make Me Sleepy with ADHD?

Three people are cheersing with their cups of coffee

Most people consume some type of caffeine every day. From coffee, to tea, to soda, to energy drinks, the most popular beverages that people consume contain varying amounts of caffeine in them.

So it isn’t surprising that most people with ADHD also routinely consume something with caffeine in it every day.

An 8oz cup of coffee contains about 80-100mgs of caffeine.

However, what is surprising is that some people with ADHD report that they feel that caffeine actually makes them sleepy instead of more alert.

Why would that happen?

I was clinically diagnosed with ADHD in 2021, and while I don’t find that caffeine makes me sleepy, one of my friends with ADHD swears by drinking a cup of coffee before bed every night.

Below we are going to look at what caffeine does to our bodies and brains, what the pros and cons of caffeine are when you have ADHD, and why caffeine makes you sleepy when you have ADHD.

What does caffeine do to our brain and body?

Caffeine interacts with a chemical in our brain called adenosine. Adenosine is a nervous system depressant and helps to promote sleep.

The natural levels of adenosine increase as the day goes on, which is why we slowly start to feel drowsy by the end of the day.

Caffeine basically blocks the effects of adenosine, which causes us to feel more awake and alert for longer.

Caffeine constricts our blood vessels and increases our heart rate. It also increases dopamine production in our brain which can help to elevate our mood.

What are the pros and cons of caffeine when you have ADHD?

When you have ADHD and consume caffeine, there are several positive effects you might feel such as:

  • increased energy
  • improved production
  • more motivation
  • increased concentration and focus
  • improved mood
  • a decrease in brain fog
  • an increase in alertness and wakefulness

There are also several negative effects that you can feel when you consume caffeine. Some of them are:

  • feeling jittery and shaky
  • increased anxiety
  • decreased appetite
  • decrease in the effectiveness of your ADHD medication
  • headache and upset stomach
  • trouble falling asleep at night

ADHD and caffeine

So should you ingest caffeine when you have ADHD?

It would depend on how you react to it, and what specific symptoms of ADHD that you struggle with.

Everyone is different.

For example, it can help to improve your focus and decrease your brain fog, which could be symptoms of ADHD that you personally struggle with.

However, many people with ADHD have anxiety, and caffeine can make your anxiety much worse. People with ADHD also frequently have trouble sleeping, and coffee can make your insomnia much worse.

But what about people with ADHD that report that caffeine actually makes them tired?

Someone is pouring milk onto a latte in this post about caffeine and ADHD

Does caffeine make people with ADHD sleepy?

Caffeine affects everyone differently.

Some people report that caffeine can help manage their ADHD symptoms, and others report the opposite– that it makes them anxious, agitated, or irritable.

But because coffee is a stimulant, most people find it wakes them up and gives them energy.

However, some people with ADHD find that when they ingest caffeine, like when they drink a cup of coffee it makes them sleepy and they want to go to bed.

While there isn’t any solid evidence or research on why this is the case, there could be a few reasons for this.

Because so many people with ADHD experience poor sleep quality at night, they often rely on energy drinks or coffee to wake them up throughout the day.

However, caffeine can cause a crash–feeling extremely tired and lethargic– several hours after you ingest it, and how hard the crash is usually depends on how much of it you have consumed.

Some ADHD medications can also cause the same type of crash when they start to wear off, which some people mistake their caffeine intake as the cause.

People that consume too much caffeine during the day, could also be preventing themselves from getting to sleep at night because the effects of caffeine are still in their system at bedtime, which would make them more tired the next and could cause them to drink even more coffee and then the cycle repeats.

One of the most interesting theories I have heard is that since caffeine increases the production of dopamine, for people that struggle with sleeping because of their ADHD, caffeine increases their decreased dopamine levels back to normal levels enough that they start to feel sleepy.

Can I drink coffee and take my medication?

This is a conversation that would be best had with your doctor.

Some people that take a stimulant ADHD medication find that their tolerance for caffeine decreases.

Instead of drinking multiple cups of coffee to get through the day, they only have one cup here or there.

Some people find that they no longer need it, or that it makes them too jittery and anxious.

It would also be wise to remember that the side effects of any medication you might be taking can increase with caffeine, or sometimes caffeine can reduce the medication’s effectiveness.

In closing…

It is important to remember that everyone is different. You might know someone with ADHD that feels that coffee makes them sleepy, and someone else that doesn’t.

It doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you.

Learning how to cope with your ADHD symptoms and life a happy and productive life is possible.

Be kind to yourself.

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