7 reasons why coffee doesn’t wake you up

7 reasons why coffee doesn't wake you up

I used to feel energized on just one or two cups of coffee. But as the years went by, I felt sluggish with the usual amount of coffee. One or two cups just don’t cut it out anymore.

Eventually, I increased my daily dose to three cups, still within the maximum recommended cups of coffee per day.

But I am not alone in this experience. My friends also reported that they needed more coffee now to power through their days.

It made me curious. So I researched why doesn’t coffee wake us up anymore. If you’re like me and my friends, then this article is for you.

Of course, the usual caveats apply. I’m not a doctor so don’t take this as medical advice. It is, however, a product of online research.

From my research, these are the top 7 reasons why coffee doesn’t wake you up:

  • You are drinking decaf coffee.
  • You’ve built up a tolerance for caffeine in the coffee.
  • You metabolize caffeine too fast.
  • You drink coffee with too much sugar.
  • Your body is dehydrated.
  • You’re already too tired and what you need is rest and not more coffee.
  • You’ve switched coffee beans and brewing techniques and the caffeine content may not be the same.

1. You are drinking decaf coffee.

Coffee wakes us up because of its caffeine content. In other words, caffeine is the active component ingredient of coffee.

Of course, if you’re drinking decaf coffee, it won’t have the caffeine that binds to the receptors. It’s as if you’re drinking water but with coffee flavor.

2. You’ve built up a tolerance for caffeine in the coffee.

Caffeine works as an antagonist at the adenosine receptors. Think of it as a substance that stops adenosine from reaching the adenosine receptors.

What is adenosine? Glad you asked.

Adenosine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It acts by suppressing arousal, making us sleepy. When you wake up after a full night’s rest, your adenosine level is close to zero. However, as the day goes on, your adenosine level builds up while you’re awake.

Adenosine decreases only when you’re asleep. It’s like a tracker of how tired you are. When you drink coffee, the caffeine in it binds to the adenosine receptors. It’s like the receptors can’t truly see how much adenosine there is. Thus, caffeine makes us awake.

Caffeine also increases dopamine levels, helping us focus, making us feel more energetic, and overall promoting feelings of pleasure.

If you’re a habitual coffee drinker like me, I have bad news for you. As you drink more coffee, your body creates more adenosine receptors to compensate. In other words, you will need more coffee to bind to the new adenosine receptors and feel the same boost.

This is perhaps the most common reason why coffee doesn’t wake us up anymore. We drink coffee to wake up. Our body adjusts.

If you do decide to up your coffee intake, remember that health professionals recommend up to 400 mg of caffeine a day. That’s about four cups of coffee a day.

So what if you don’t want to increase your coffee intake? What can you do?

You can try to reset your coffee tolerance. There’s only one way to do this—quit coffee for at least a week. This is hard though. You might experience headaches, drowsiness, and other coffee withdrawal symptoms.

If you do this, however, coffee might wake you up again as it used to. Try to have a week-long coffee break every 6 months or so.

3. You metabolize caffeine too fast.

You may be one of those who aren’t sensitive to caffeine. When caffeine enters the body, it is metabolized by enzymes.

But our bodies react differently to caffeine. These differences are genetic in origin.

Thus, some metabolize coffee quickly. Some slowly. If you fall under the former, you won’t be able to feel much of coffee’s effects.

In other words, your coffee sensitivity is low.

Still, just because you metabolize coffee fast doesn’t mean you can drink as much as you want. Drinking in moderation is still the key.

4. You drink your coffee with too much sugar.

When you consume a lot of sugar, you may experience a temporary boost of energy. But after, you may experience what is known as a sugar crash, making you feel sleepy and exhausted.

Because the body metabolizes sugar faster than coffee, it might be eclipsing the effects of coffee.

5. Your body is dehydrated.

Coffee is a diuretic, meaning it induces loss of water through frequent urination.

If you are experiencing dehydration, you won’t feel the energizing effects of coffee because what your body needs is water. Dehydration causes you to feel tired and drowsy.

Next time you feel that coffee is not doing wonders on your energy levels, ask yourself if you are sufficiently hydrated. If not, go ahead and drink water!

6. You’re already too tired and what you need is rest and not more coffee.

No matter how much coffee you drink, you won’t feel energized if you’re already too tired.

If you haven’t slept a wink, your adenosine levels are too high. Even if you drink coffee, your body will still feel exhausted.

What you need is sleep. Consider taking a power nap or even a well-deserved rest.

I usually do a coffee nap. I drink coffee and then take a nap for 20 minutes or so. By the time I’m awake, the coffee has kicked in. Plus, my adenosine levels have decreased. This way, I feel doubly energized.

7. You’ve switched coffee beans and brewing techniques and the caffeine content may not be the same.

Different coffee beans and different brewing techniques yield different caffeine content in coffee.

If you recently changed your beans or brewing technique or both, then the caffeine level might not be the same.

This may be why you don’t feel energized after your usual cup of coffee.


There you have it, the 7 reasons why coffee is not working for you. I hope you learned something from this article.