ADHD and Caffeine

ADHD and CaffeineIs it ok to drink caffeine when you have ADHD?

Caffeine is a stimulant, but unlike other stimulants, such as nicotine, cocaine and prescribed meds (including ADHD medication) is widely used and socially accepted.

Caffeine, whether it’s in coffee, tea, chocolate, Coca-Cola or energy drinks, like Red Bull,  make you feel more alert, happy and energetic. This is because it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and you feel its effects in your body and brain.

ADHDers can have an interesting relationship with coffee, and caffeine in general.  Some people love it and find it helps their ADHD symptoms. Others avoid it because it makes them anxious. Another group of ADHDers are super users and drink it large quantities – 10 cups a day wouldn’t be an exaggeration, and some people even drink it before bed to help them to sleep.

Here are some of the Pros and Cons of caffeine:

Pros

1) Helps focus and problem solving.

2) Gives you an emotional pick-me-up (thanks to the increase in dopamine production)

3) Gives you a boost of physical energy

4) Reduces sleepiness…which is so useful in the morning, if you struggle to wake up

These benefits are only short lasting, which is why it’s easy and tempting to reach for more when the caffeine benefits start to wear off.

Cons

The problem with too much caffeine when you have ADHD is that:

1) Caffeine can decrease the effectiveness of ADHD medication

2) It can cause negative health effects, such as headaches and nausea, but more importantly, anxiety (which 50 percent of people with ADHD have).

3) It can deplete you mentally and physically. For example, many ADDers get into bad habits with eating, (forgetting to eat, or not organizing time to prepare food) so they use coffee and sugar to keep them going all day. This causes a quick burst of mental and physical energy, but then results in a crash. To get out of the crash, you reach for more caffeine and sugar. This leaves you jittery; mentally and emotionally and physically exhausted.

4) Caffeine often interferes with sleep, which is important as  75 percent of people with ADHD have problems getting a good night sleep.

Caffeine in Moderation

You don’t have to give up caffeine completely. However, because moderation is key, here are some painless ways to reduce your caffeine intake.

1) Track (with no judgement) how many caffeine drinks you have each day.

2) Notice what it is that prompts you to have one. For example: a pick me up in the afternoon, an excuse to go for a walk, a habit, or a need to focus on a hard mental task, etc.

3) Look at this information and see if there something you could do instead of drinking caffeine that would help. If you get an afternoon slump, perhaps replace your big lunch for a smaller meal and then have an afternoon snack. If you need to go for a walk, give yourself permission to just go for a walk rather needing a reason, such as picking up coffee.

4) Are there some times when a non-caffeinated drink would be just as good? For example, whenever I sit down to write, I have this ingrained habit of sitting down with a hot drink. However, I realized it doesn’t have to be tea; sometimes, a mug of mint tea is just as good.

5) Drink more water; because caffeine is a diuretic and also, when we are fully hydrated, our bodies crave less caffeine.

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Comments

  1. ELIZABETH SACKHEIM says:

    Enjoyed reading this article. When I attended a very large university after having spent my entire life in small private schools, I was overwhelmed and it was the first time I drank coffee and I abused it thinking it was giving me more focus to my studies. I became anorexic, over anxious, and did poorly in my grades. I quit school for a term, meditated 2x day and low and behold went back without the urge for so much coffee and finished my program. That was when I was 20 years old, I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 50 and missed out all those years prior struggling to understand what was wrong with me. This article was excellent and rings true.

  2. Jen says:

    I Lovvvve COFFEE ☕️!!
    I take coffee with milk, NO SUGAR. It relaxes me and I can fall asleep soon after drinking it. I can drink coffee all day and it doesn’t interfere with my sleep, in fact, it helps with my sleep disorder!
    My son (24) can fall asleep after drinking energy drinks. He’s becoming quite dependent on them to help him sleep.
    My eldest son (26) loves coffee but can’t drink it because it makes him constantly need to pee!
    I would find it very difficult to give up coffee.
    I love everything about it; the aroma, the taste, cool coffee shops, the whole coffee culture!
    I have a Pinterest board dedicated to COFFEE ☕️

  3. Amish MAlik says:

    Yes its absolutely true, Whenever I drink coffee or Cardamom tea, I feel my mind getting relaxed and rested. I also feel sleepy.

  4. Hermann says:

    @John: That’s called Paradoxical reaction. It’s common with ADHD people.

  5. Suzanne Rogers says:

    Yes, I agree with John, as a woman with ADHD, caffeine makes me sleepy! My friends used to laugh and say “If you want Suzanne to stop talking give her a shot(s) of espresso and she’ll fall asleep!” hahaha….

  6. John V. Billings says:

    I have treated Adult ADHD since 2004, as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. I have found that about a third of my clients will actually fall asleep if they drink a caffeinated soda, or a cup of coffee. In fact, I have a son-in-law and three grandchildren that drinking a Dr. Pepper at bedtime will put them to sleep. Without the caffeine they may stay awake for hours.

    Theoretically, if a person has ADHD they don’t produce enough nor-epinephrine (nor-adrenaline). Nor-epinephrine is needed to be able to release serotonin. You need serotonin to be able to sleep, possibly because you need serotonin to make melatonin. Therefore, by consuming caffeine, nor-epinephrine is released, then serotonin is released, then melatonin is made, and the person goes to sleep.

    I have not found research articles that explore this phenomena, and therefore there is little evidence to base the theory, or treatment of insomnia caused by ADHD with stimulant medication. However, a third of my clientele have benefited by being able to fall asleep when the ADHD is properly treated.

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