For people who are constantly tired or sleepy throughout the day (even after a night’s rest), the common impulse is to deal with their daytime fatigue by getting a quick pick-me-up through some type of stimulant to boost their energy.
However, this may not be a good solution, as it is only a band-aid fix that may last a few hours.
Do Stimulants Work?
Most people looking to deal with their daytime fatigue will often ask, “Will stimulants help me stay awake and energized throughout the day?”
It’s a common misconception that stimulants such as coffee, energy drinks, sugar rich foods or anything with caffeine will keep a person energized for the whole day.
The truth is that it may not work the way that many believe it to.
Stimulants work by providing temporary energy that does not last very long. When stimulant such as caffeine or sugar enter the body they begin to work immediately.
In just about five minutes, these start to trigger the central nervous system to release hormones that are associated with the “fight or flight” response.
This is the same response that the system uses during emergency situations in order to regulate stress and help a person fight for his life or flee from any present danger.
As a result the body increases blood pressure and blood sugar while suppressing the immune system, resulting in a boost of energy.
While this may be useful in situations where a lot of physical action takes place, it does not do much for those who are sedentary.
A short period of alertness may be felt, but it is often followed by agitation afterwards due to the body’s reaction.
"Caffeine forces your glands to secrete when they don't have much left to give, and they have to keep digging deeper and deeper, making you more and more tired over time.
And over the years, it takes more and more coffee to get the same result. Some people reach the point of drinking half a dozen or more cups of coffee to get the same result and it's barely keeping them awake. That's severe adrenal depletion." Ralph T. Golan, MD
In people who take advantage of this process on a daily basis (i.e. coffee/tea, soda or energy drink addicts), the brain’s chemistry and physical characteristics actually change over time as a result.
The most notable change is that brain cells grow more adenosine receptors, which is the brain’s attempt to maintain equilibrium in the face of a constant onslaught of caffeine, with its adenosine receptors so regularly plugged (studies indicate that the brain also responds by decreasing the number of receptors for norepinephrine, a stimulant).
This explains why regular coffee drinkers build up a tolerance over time—because you have more adenosine receptors, it takes more caffeine to block a significant proportion of them and achieve the desired effect.
Aside from this, as the effects of the stimulant wear off, a person will often feel more tired or hungry because of the effort exerted by the system.
Additionally, stimulants can produce side effects such as headaches, moodiness, depression and additional fatigue in some people.
Stimulants only work to provide a chemical activation, and not actual rest which is why it can only provide temporary energy for the system. This is why people who try to treat their daytime fatigue by continuously taking stimulants throughout the day only feel more tired afterwards.
Their bodies keep working double time to produce Adenosine Triphosphate (APT) which is the basic unit of energy when it is stimulated, but it does not really have any energy in store.
In fact some experts believe that continuous use of stimulants will actually lead to less effectiveness in the end because it depletes the ATP.
Also, continuous caffeine intake can create an addiction. People who take more than 3 cups of coffee each day, and cannot function without it are at risk for this.
Constant caffeine intake can result in adrenal exhaustion which is a condition where the adrenal glands become worn out from constant stimulation.
Despite this, those who enjoy their coffee or other forms of caffeine should not avoid it completely. Stimulants when used properly can be a good way to improve alertness and keep sleepiness from daytime fatigue away.
What needs to be done, is to be careful of the amount of stimulant taken so it does not create an addiction or wear the body out.