The dreaded caffeine crash: What it is and how to avoid it

By Shannon Sweeney — / Coffee Talk

What's a caffeine crash? 

We've all been there. It's 2 p.m., you're staring at your computer, and there's no end in sight. You can barely keep your eyes open, and the last thing you want to do is fill out that spreadsheet your boss needs by tomorrow morning.

If you drink a lot of coffee in the morning, this is more likely to happen to you. Yes, I'm talking about the dreaded caffeine crash. A caffeine crash usually happens a few hours after a person has consumed a moderate to high dose of caffeine after being tired (and who isn't tired when they have to get up at 6 a.m. for work?).

A young female on a train with her head in her arms on a table.

After caffeine in your body wears off, you're likely to experience these symptoms of a caffeine crash:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Irritability
  • Dozing off

So why do caffeine crashes happen? The answer: Caffeine blocks adenosine in your brain, which is what your brain produces when you're tired. But when you're drinking coffee, your brain doesn't stop producing adenosine. So when the caffeine wears off, adenosine floods your brain's receptors, making you tired and ready for bed. 

How do you avoid a caffeine crash? Here are a few tips. 

1. Spread out your caffeine consumption throughout the day

I know it can be hard, but don't slam your pot of coffee as soon as you wake up. Spread your coffee consumption throughout the day so you don't crash in the afternoon. In addition to making you less irritable, sipping strong coffee all day long will make you like your coworkers more, too

Tattooed hands holding a latte in a black mug. The male is wearing a gold watch.

2. Get an adequate amount of sleep

Starting the day with normal adenosine levels will prevent a crash. The best way to do this? Get a good night's sleep. For adults, that's between 7 and 9 hours a night. 

A woman falling asleep at the table with a mug of coffee in front of her.

3. Make sure you're drinking enough water

Drinking water in the morning when you get up will save you in the long run. The bottom line: You need to drink water to get caffeinated. It helps prevent headaches, keep you hydrated, and is essential to brain function — it all goes back to adenosine. 

A mason jar filled with water and ice on a green table top.

4. Don't drink coffee on an empty stomach

Food gives you natural energy and helps you last throughout the day. Caffeine, on the other hand, is a temporary source of energy. Without real food, your body will feel fatigued faster. Plus, coffee on an empty stomach can cause stomach aches, so in addition to feeling tired, you can feel sick, too. Even if you don't have time to make a full breakfast, take some granola bars to go or make oatmeal at work, and make sure you're eating enough throughout the day.

When you follow these steps, you'll be ready to go all day long. And if you don't feel like trying them, take a coffee nap instead

Related: Sleepy after coffee? Here's the fix.


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