Why does coffee make me tired and confused.
November 14, 2008 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Diagnosisfilter: I used to love coffee. It made me feel like all was right with the world. Recently, coffee makes me mentally confused and foggy... confused to the point that it's sometimes hard to follow conversations. It doesn't seem to matter how much I drink, it doesn't make me more alert. While the coffee response is the most weird symptom, I've generally felt rundown and foggy lately. It doesn't seem to matter how much I sleep (I can sleep for 12 hours and still feel tired). I have a doctor's appointment in a few weeks, but I want to know what you all think. Thanks everybody!
posted by specialfriend to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I used to get something like this if I was stressed or nervous or otherwise predisposed. I still do. Otherwise I can slug back 4 or 5 cups of coffee and barely get a buzz. But if I'm already concerned about something, one cup is enough to kick my butt into nervous-dude-mode.
posted by GilloD at 11:38 AM on November 14, 2008

My first impression is that this probably has nothing to do with coffee. It wouldn't hurt to go a few days without it, though. Good things to do prior to the doctor visit are: analyze your diet to see if anything has changed lately. Try avoiding specific foods, such as coffee, that you have any reaction at all to, one at a time.
posted by yath at 11:41 AM on November 14, 2008

That sounds like anxiety that is exacerbated by the coffee. Agree that cutting back is a good start. I find that at least every other month I have to decrease my coffee intake because I naturally suffer from a bit of GAD.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 11:44 AM on November 14, 2008

Sounds like my hypothyroid symptoms. Get a TSH [thyroid-stimulating hormone] test, and make them tell you the number, don't put up with, "oh, your thyroid is fine."

Some consider a TSH of up to 5.5 "normal," but that has been revised downward in recent years. I feel best when my TSH is under 1.0.

Also, coffee lowers blood sugar levels, and that will make you tired.
posted by jgirl at 11:44 AM on November 14, 2008 [4 favorites]

I should have mentioned: I don't actually don't drink much coffee. Maybe 2 or 3 cups a week.
posted by specialfriend at 11:46 AM on November 14, 2008

What's called "coffee" varies widely. Peets French Roast, Starbucks, and some other smaller roasters' beans give me a weird buzz. (And not the good kind of buzz.) The industrial diner coffee (Maxwell House, Nabob, etc.) can give me a bit of a headache, but usually more gut rot.

Point is: It might just be a particular brand/roast of coffee that's messing with you.
posted by kamelhoecker at 12:15 PM on November 14, 2008

You might be dehydrated. Coffee doesn't help that. Drink a couple of glasses of water, maybe?
posted by drinkcoffee at 12:27 PM on November 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

It sounds like it might be a blood sugar issue to me. Caffeine perks you up by causing a release of sugar into the bloodstream - you may not have any sugar to give? (so very not a doctor) Have you been eating regularly?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:38 PM on November 14, 2008

What are you drinking? Plain coffee? Coffee with milk? Coffee with sugar? Frappuccino type drinks?

I'm asking because I agree with The Light Fantastic that there could be a blood sugar issue at play here. Not so much because of the caffeine, but because coffee drinks are packed with sugars (both lactose and sweeteners) which can really wreak havoc with the blood sugar.

IANAD, but I am a prediabetic who, before diagnosis, wondered why my Tall Caramel Macchiattos (among other things) were putting me to sleep. The gist of it was that the sugar caused a huge spike in my blood sugar, which my body countered by making too much insulin... leading to too *low* blood sugar, brain fog and sleepiness.

So now it's plain coffee for me, and no more problems.
posted by chez shoes at 12:47 PM on November 14, 2008

How bout depression? If you are depressed and aren't thinking clearly (by virtue of not processing things fast enough), then perhaps speeding things up only has the effect of making it hard for you to focus. I don't know, really, but that's how I feel when I get depressed. I do the stupidest things and sleep for hours on end without ever feeling rested.
posted by greekphilosophy at 1:04 PM on November 14, 2008

Previously on ask.mefi. You're not alone.
posted by crapmatic at 1:22 PM on November 14, 2008

Related anecdote: I tend to get sleepy if I have a cup of coffee in the early afternoon (especially on weekends), while the rest of the time it seems to have the normal effect on me.
posted by singingfish at 1:38 PM on November 14, 2008

Like Jgirl, I suffered from horrible foggies because of hypothyroid. I had a whole array of symptoms including extreme tiredness that vanished *poof!* when I started taking Synthroid.

Also seconding dehydration. Coffee isn't water; in fact, it's a diuretic that can dry you out. You need to drink WATER to stay hydrated.

Finally, you might want to ask your doctor about a sleep test. Especially if you are at all overweight, have a thick neck, or have been told you snore, gasp or stop breathing when you sleep. Sleep apnea can ruin your sleep and quality of life (not to mention give you heart problems).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:43 PM on November 14, 2008

I've generally felt rundown and foggy lately. It doesn't seem to matter how much I sleep (I can sleep for 12 hours and still feel tired).

Not sure about the coffee part, but this sounds exactly like how I felt when I had mono. Constantly tired despite lots of sleep, and confused/listless/unfocused during conversation.
posted by soleiluna at 3:30 PM on November 14, 2008

Actually, caffeine raises blood sugar. Alcohol lowers it.
posted by luckypozzo at 4:34 PM on November 14, 2008

Have you started or stopped taking any medications lately? I know my reaction to caffeine varies wildly depending on what else is or isn't in my system. A friend of mine was on Adderall for several years and has always been a coffee drinker, but since she went off Adderall she can't tolerate caffeine at all.
However from your description it does seem like there may be some underlying medical issue. Definitely get the thyroid test, thyroid problems cause all sorts of weird symptoms, including fatigue and depression.
posted by catatethebird at 5:56 PM on November 14, 2008

Rosie M. Banks et al might be on to something...are you experiencing any other symptoms such as dry skin, dry hair, hair loss or anything else described here? IANAD but I do have hypothyroidism and I felt so much better after getting on Levoxyl/Synthroid.
posted by radioamy at 11:11 PM on November 14, 2008

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