why do energy drinks make me feel more tired?
Sleep Problems

Why Do Energy Drinks Make Me Tired Instead of Energized?

Last Updated on February 12, 2024 by Louise Carter

Many people rely on caffeinated energy drinks for a short-term physical and mental boost. Unfortunately, energy drinks don’t always fulfill their intended purpose.

Energy drinks can make you sleepy if you already have caffeine in your bloodstream. Caffeine reduces the creation of adenosine, an organic chemical compound that makes us tired.

Too much caffeine has the opposite effect, as the brain creates adenosine, making you feel drowsy.

Energy drinks are usually high in sugar unless you choose a sugar-free brand. This overwhelming sweetness has a cloying taste and unbalances our energy levels.   

Do Energy Drinks Really Wake You Up?

Many people rely on energy drinks to stay alert when physically or mentally drained.

The journal Amino Acids stated that Red Bull, arguably the best-known and most popular energy drink brand, can improve memory, concentration, and reaction time.

This is primarily due to the high caffeine content of these carbonated beverages. When we consider the best-selling energy drinks in the U.S., the caffeine content will always be key.

All of the following energy drinks are high in caffeine:

  • Red Bull.
  • Monster.
  • Rockstar.
  • Eastroc Super.
  • Hi-Tiger.
  • Lucozade.
  • NOS.
  • Oronamin.
  • Burn.

An energy drink contains 80-160 mg of caffeine, depending on the can size. In comparison, the average 8-oz cup of coffee contains 95 mg of caffeine.

Caffeine consumption reduces the impact of adenosine. This compound steadily builds up in the body throughout the day, dulling the nervous system.

The longer we stay awake, the more adenosine the body creates and the more tired we feel.

As caffeine blocks adenosine, a sizable shot of this stimulant leaves the mind and body in a state of high alert. Muting adenosine sparks the so-called fight-or-flight response.

Your senses are heightened, your heart races faster, and your reflexes are sharper. Due to the additional ingredients, energy drinks are likelier to wake you up than coffee.

Energy drinks are high in sugar, which rapidly enters the bloodstream and is converted into energy, providing a short-term, artificial bout of alertness and hyperactivity called a ‘sugar rush.’ 

Energy drinks provide a short, sharp burst of mental and physical energy. The more caffeine a drink contains, the more alert you should feel afterward.

Unfortunately, energy drinks can have the reverse effect, reducing our energy and mental focus.

can energy drinks have the opposite effect?

Why Do Energy Drinks Make Me Feel More Tired?

Despite consuming energy drinks for a boost, some of us feel even more exhausted.

We mentioned that Red Bull is among the most popular brands of energy drinks. This product is sold in 8 oz cans containing 23 g of sugar. This is equal to around 5 teaspoons of sugar.

You’d unlikely add that much sugar to an 8-oz coffee cup. Sugar’s impact burns brightly but briefly. While you may get an immediate boost, you’ll soon experience an energy crash.

As blood sugar increases, a neurotransmitter called orexin is depleted. Orexin keeps the mind and body sharp and active. The less orexin we have, the sleepier we feel.

According to Open Heart, too much sugar deprives the body of nutrition from food and beverages, leading to an imbalance of energy. Sugar-heavy energy drinks lead to an energy slump.

Sugar-free energy drinks are available, but such products don’t guarantee different results.

If you ask yourself, “Why do sugar-free energy drinks make me tired?” consider how much caffeine you already have in the bloodstream.

As discussed, a single dose of caffeine suppresses the impact of adenosine on the body.

Excess caffeine consumption creates an automatic defensive response. Concerned by the prospect of overstimulation, the brain and body generate more adenosine than ever.

Current Neuropharmacology states that adenosine leads to a good night’s sleep, especially after building throughout the day.

However, flooding the body with excess adenosine in one dose is akin to a sedative. If you’re already caffeinated, energy drinks will make you feel even more exhausted.

Is It Bad to Sleep After Drinking An Energy Drink?

Even if an energy drink doesn’t invigorate you, you may still struggle to sleep. Nutrition Reviews stated that the rise in popularity of energy drinks has coincided with a reduction in sleep quality.

It’s recommended that caffeine is avoided for around 6 hours before bed. Unfortunately, drinking an energy drink may leave you feeling exhausted.

You’re unlikely to get quality sleep after consuming an energy drink, no matter how tired you feel.

Caffeine is a diuretic, so you’ll be disturbed at least once with a need for the bathroom. Some sleep is better than none, but you’re unlikely to get much rest.

The caffeine in energy drinks can also leave you feeling dehydrated. Even if you sleep through this, you’ll wake up with brain fog, groggy exhaustion, and a searing headache.

Alternatives To Energy Drinks

Based on the impact of energy drinks, you may be interested in alternative ways to bolster your mental performance in the morning.

A double shot of coffee from Starbucks or Costa Coffee will contain a similar amount of caffeine as an energy drink. However, you’ll sip it slower, leading to a steadier caffeine intake.

If you lack time to enjoy a coffee at a steady pace, you may consider energy shots of caffeine pills. These are available in the same places as energy drinks, like supermarkets.

Unfortunately, these products have the same drawbacks as sugar-free energy drinks. You may get an initial boost if you haven’t consumed caffeine.

Coupling pills or shots with other caffeinated products will make you sleepy. Instead of relying on artificial highs, there are more conventional ways to get a boost to the body and mind.

Consider one of the following approaches.:

Water

Morning is the optimum time for caffeine consumption, whether in energy drinks or a more conventional cup of coffee. However, don’t underestimate how impactful plain water can be.

The brain is around 73% water, so hydration is critical to optimum mental performance. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that dehydration impacts mental cognition.

Even if you’re not dehydrated in the morning, consider drinking water, not caffeinated drinks. This will lift your mood, prepare you for the day, and improve your overall health.

Electrolyte Supplements

The following electrolytes must be balanced to maintain peak performance:

  • Bicarbonate.
  • Calcium.
  • Chloride.
  • Magnesium.
  • Phosphate.
  • Potassium.
  • Sodium.

You’ll maintain mental sharpness by introducing electrolyte supplements into your diet through soluble solutions dropped in water or as oral tablets. You can also get electrolytes from a sports drink.

If you’re regularly feeling low on energy, consider getting your electrolyte levels checked by a doctor. They may be low and unbalanced, leading to near-constant exhaustion.

why do energy drinks not work for me?

Green Tea

Green tea is similar to an energy drink. It has 30% of the caffeine of a strong coffee or energy drink. Perhaps more importantly, green tea contains a chemical compound called L-theanine.

The journal Beverages stated that L-theanine provides a natural brain boost alongside other advantages, including heart health and antioxidant properties.

Interestingly, the Journal of Psychiatric Research explains how L-theanine also eases anxiety. Green tea helps us wake up in the morning, function throughout the day, and sleep well at night.

Better Sleep

No stimulant is an adequate substitute for a good night’s sleep.

Don’t cease all caffeine intake at once. This will likely result in withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, irritability, nausea, muscle aches, and trouble focusing.

If you can get 8 hours of quality sleep overnight, you’re unlikely to struggle in the morning. Through a cup of coffee or green tea, one dose will see you through the day.

Practice good sleep hygiene to enjoy the benefits.

Avoid laptops and watching TV for the last hour of the night, create a routine of retiring and rising at the same time, and stay away from caffeine for several hours before heading to bed.

Like all stimulants, caffeine needs to be used sparingly.

While energy drinks can wake us up and leave us feeling sharp, they can also make us sleepy. When we consider the side effects of energy drinks on the human body, they’re best used sparingly.