Energy drinks have grown increasingly popular over the last decade.
Many people rely on these caffeinated drinks for a short-term physical and mental boost. Unfortunately, energy drinks don’t always fulfill their intended purpose.
Energy drinks make you sleepy if you already have caffeine in your bloodstream. Caffeine dampens the creation of adenosine, an organic chemical compound that makes us tired.
Too much caffeine has the opposite effect. The brain panics and creates a flood of adenosine, which will make you feel drowsy.
Energy drinks are usually packed with sugar unless you specifically choose a sugar-free brand. This sweetness can create a cloying taste and unbalance the body’s nutrition and energy levels.
Do Energy Drinks Really Wake You Up?
Many people rely on energy drinks to maintain alertness when feeling physically or mentally drained.
Amino Acids confirms that Red Bull, arguably the most popular energy drink brand on the market, can improve memory, concentration, and reaction time.
This is primarily due to the caffeine content of these carbonated beverages. When we consider the best-selling list of energy drinks in the United States, the caffeine content will always be key.
Any of the following brands will be packed with caffeine:
- Red Bull
- Eastroc Super
Typically, an energy drink will contain 80-160mg of caffeine, depending upon the size of the can.
For comparison, the average 8oz cup of coffee has an average of 95mg of caffeine. The additional caffeine found in energy drinks can make a substantial difference.
Caffeine consumption dampens and blocks the impact of a compound found in the body called adenosine. Adenosine 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 plunges the body and brain into 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.
The reason energy drinks are likelier to wake you up than coffee is additional ingredients.
Unless you choose a zero-sugar brand, energy drinks are packed with sugar that rapidly travels into the bloodstream. This is immediately turned into energy, providing the short-term, artificial bout of alertness and hyperactivity referred to as a ‘sugar rush.’
Energy drinks provide a short, sharp burst of mental and physical prowess. The more caffeine the drink contains, the more alert you should feel afterward.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a guarantee. In fact, energy drinks can have the opposite effect.
Why Do Energy Drinks Make Me Feel More Tired?
Some people find that, despite consuming energy drinks in the hope of gaining a mental and physical boost, they are even more exhausted than before the can was opened. “Why do energy drinks not work for me?” is a frequently asked question.
We’ve hinted at the first possible explanation for an energy drink making us tired – sugar. We previously mentioned that Red Bull is among the most popular brands of energy drinks. This product is sold in 8oz cans, each containing 23g of sugar.
This is equal to around five teaspoons of sugar. It’s unlikely that you would add so much sugar to an 8oz coffee cup, for a good reason. The impact of sugar burns brightly but briefly. While you may get an immediate boost, you’ll soon crash in energy.
This crash arises when blood sugar rises sharply. As blood sugar increases, a neurotransmitter in the brain called orexin depletes. Orexin is responsible for keeping the brain and body sharp and active; the less we have, the sleeper we feel.
According to Open Heart, too much sugar deprives the body of critical nutrition gained from traditional food and beverages. This leads to an imbalance of energy. Sugar-heavy energy drinks are likely to lead to a slump sooner than later.
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 your bloodstream.
As discussed, a single dose of caffeine suppresses the impact of adenosine on the body. Excess caffeine consumption creates an automatic defensive response, though. Concerned by the prospect of overstimulation, the brain and body generate more adenosine than ever.
Current Neuropharmacology confirms that adenosine leads to a good night’s sleep, especially after building throughout the day. However, flooding the body with an excess if the organic compound in one dose is akin to a sedative. If you’re already caffeinated, energy drinks will escalate your exhaustion.
Is it Bad to Sleep After Drinking an Energy Drink?
Even if you don’t feel invigorated by an energy drink, you may still struggle to sleep.
Nutrition Reviews confirms that the rise in popularity of energy drinks has coincided with a reduction in global sleep quality. Try not to cave into tiredness immediately.
It’s typically recommended that caffeine is avoided for around six hours before bed. Unfortunately, as discussed, drinking an energy drink may leave you exhausted. Taking a nap may be an immediate solution for this, but it’s not always wise.
You’re unlikely to get quality sleep after consuming an energy drink, no matter how drowsy you may be. 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 enjoy much rest.
The caffeine found 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.
Avoid the temptation to resolve these concerns with another energy drink.
Alternatives To Energy Drinks
Based on the impact that energy drinks have on the body, you may be interested in alternative products to bolster your mental performance in the morning. The first is obvious – coffee.
Many people call in to a high street coffee chain on their way to work or while shopping. A double shot of coffee from a supplier like Starbucks will contain a similar amount of caffeine as an energy drink. 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 want to consider energy shots of caffeine pills. These will be available in the same places as energy drinks, such as supermarkets.
Unfortunately, these products will have the same drawbacks as sugar-free energy drinks. You may get an initial boost if you haven’t consumed any caffeine. Couple pills or shots with other caffeinated products, and you’ll be sleepy.
Instead of relying upon these artificial highs, there are more conventional ways to enjoy a boost to the body and mind.
Consider one of the following four approaches.:
Morning is the optimum time for caffeine consumption, whether in the form of energy drinks or a more conventional cup of coffee. Don’t underestimate how impactful plain water can be, though. You may find that simple hydration is just as effective.
The human brain is around 73% water, so regular hydration is key to optimum mental performance. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition confirms that dehydration impacts mental cognition.
Keep a bedroom cool overnight to avoid this outcome in the morning.
Even if you’re not actively dehydrated in the morning, consider drinking water in place of caffeinated drinks. This will lift your mood, prepare you for the day ahead, and improve your health.
Electrolytes are found in the human body and must be balanced to maintain peak performance. Examples of electrolytes found in the body include:
You’ll maintain mental sharpness by bringing electrolyte supplements into your diet through soluble solutions dropped in water or as oral tablets. You can also gain electrolytes by purchasing a sports drink.
If you’re regularly feeling low on energy, consider having your electrolyte levels checked by a doctor. They may be low and unbalanced, leading to near-constant exhaustion that requires energy drinks to temper.
Green tea is arguably the most effective substitute for coffee in the morning so it could perform a similar role as an energy drink. Green tea contains a small amount of caffeine – around 30% of what you would find in a strong coffee or energy drink.
Perhaps more importantly, green tea contains a naturally occurring chemical compound called L-theanine. Beverages confirm 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 soothes and eases anxiety. Unlike energy drinks, green tea helps us wake up in the morning, function throughout the day, and sleep well at night.
No stimulant is an adequate substitute for a good night’s sleep.
Don’t cease all caffeine intake in one fell swoop. This will likely result in somewhat debilitating withdrawal symptoms, including painful headaches, irritability, nausea, muscle aches, and trouble focusing.
If you can gain eight hours of quality sleep overnight, you’re unlikely to need much caffeine when the morning comes. Through a cup of coffee or preferably green tea, one dose will see you through the day.
Practice good sleep hygiene to enjoy the benefits of this. Avoid screens for the last hour of the night, create a routine of retiring and rising at the same time each night and morning, and above all, 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 or avoided.