Can Caffeine Make You Light-Headed?


Many people worldwide drink a cup of coffee or tea daily in the morning (or at any time) to feel energised for the day ahead. It wakes us up and may put us in a better mood, but it is important to keep in mind that not all its effects are positive. Have you ever felt light-headed after your daily caffeine dose? If the answer is yes, you are not the only one.

This article outlines how caffeine affects our bodies, why it makes us feel light-headed and how we can ensure we are consuming it in a healthy, responsible way.

Caffeine as a stimulant

Caffeine consumption is extremely common in most countries nowadays, with coffee being the second most popular drink in the world after water.1 Caffeine is a stimulating substance naturally found in coffee, tea, cacao beans and guarana berries.2 

Effects on the body

Caffeine has a range of effects on all body organs and is absorbed quickly after intake.1 The substance increases alertness and energy by altering the function of adenosine, a chemical present in our bodies that signals when we are tired and need to rest or sleep. Caffeine reduces its activity,3 hence why drinking a cup of coffee may keep us awake late at night.

Apart from its stimulating properties, caffeine may affect the central nervous system and impact brain functions like cognition, learning, memory and sleep patterns.4 The specific strength and duration of these effects varies between individuals and is affected by factors such as age, diet and the presence of conditions such as high blood pressure (hypertension).2

How does caffeine make you light-headed?

One of the possible consequences of drinking too much coffee or tea is feeling light-headed. By affecting adenosine, caffeine not only acts as a stimulant but also reduces cerebral blood flow; this is what leads to feeling dizzy.5

Although feeling slightly light-headed may not be a cause for alarm, it can be a sign that an individual has consumed too much caffeine. Feeling very dizzy can be a symptom of caffeine overdose or caffeine allergy. 

Caffeine overdose 

Caffeine overdose can occur when a person ingests a very large amount of caffeine. The maximum recommended daily dose by the US Department of Agriculture and the European Food Safety Authority is 400 mg (equivalent to 2 to 3 cups of coffee).6 A higher intake will increase the risk for a caffeine overdose, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe.


Mild symptoms:

  • Nausea 
  • Dizziness and feeling light headed
  • Diarrhoea
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Thirst 
  • Irritability

More serious symptoms:

  • Irregular or very fast heartbeat
  • Fever 
  • Trouble breathing
  • Convulsions 

Caffeine allergy

Although for many a cup of coffee or tea can be a nice morning drink that helps them wake up, some people are particularly sensitive to the stimulating effects of caffeine. Caffeine intolerant individuals will experience higher levels of alertness and dizziness than other coffee drinkers.

It is also possible to experience an allergic reaction from caffeine. Although rare, its implications are more serious and may lead to anaphylactic shock.4 Individuals who are intolerant or allergic to caffeine should avoid consuming it. 


Symptoms that point to a caffeine allergy include the following:

  • Swollen lips or tongue 
  • Itchy lips or tongue
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • Anxiousness 
  • Difficulty sleeping

Interference with medications

Due to its effect across the entire body, caffeine may interact with a number of medications, either enhancing or reducing their effectiveness4. Therefore, in some cases, it may be beneficial to adapt our caffeine consumption habits when taking certain prescribed treatments.

Other stimulant drugs: as caffeine is a stimulant, consuming it alongside any other stimulant medication will increase its effects and potentially lead to severe restlessness.

Adenosine: adenosine is a drug which widens blood vessels (vasodilation), and is given to patients before undergoing a cardiac stress test. As both caffeine and adenosine bind to the same receptors (adenosine receptors) but have opposing effects, caffeine may counteract the effects of adenosine.

Seizure medication: some animal studies suggest caffeine may lower the effect of anticonvulsants and increase the probability of having a seizure, although there is no definitive evidence.7

Quinolone antibiotics: quinolone antibiotics are a widely used type of antibiotic. They may decrease the speed at which caffeine is metabolised and broken down in the body, thus extending its effects.8 This can lead to symptoms similar to those of a caffiene overdose.

How to feel less light-headed

There are several ways to reduce the chance of feeling light-headed from consuming caffeine. The two best ways to achieve these are reducing caffeine intake and drinking more water to prevent dehydration.

Reduce coffee intake 

The first step to prevent feeling light-headed from consuming caffeine is to reduce its intake. Avoiding coffee, tea, cocoa and other caffeinated beverages or switching to decaf and herbal infusions is a good place to start. However, quitting caffeine very abruptly can lead to caffeine withdrawal symptoms (headaches, difficulty concentrating, irritability). To avoid this, it is recommended to gradually reduce the amount consumed each day; for example, by drinking a cup of coffee every other day instead of every day.

Increase water intake

Another good way to reduce the detrimental effects of consuming too much caffeine is increasing water intake. Although a moderate amount of caffeine has not been proven to cause dehydration, high quantities may trigger excessive water loss as the substance is a mild diuretic.9 And as feeling light headed is a symptom of dehydration, there is a chance that when one is feeling dizzy the reason is too much caffeine. Therefore, drinking more water will counteract this.


Caffeine is a stimulating substance present in many popular drinks such as coffee and tea. The strength of its effect varies from person to person, but consuming too much can lead to negative symptoms such as dehydration, a fast heartbeat and feeling light-headed. In addition, some individuals may be hypersensitive or allergic to caffeine. Therefore, in order not to feel light headed after drinking a cup of coffee, it is recommended not to exceed the recommended daily dose and to keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water.


  1. Cappelletti S, Daria P, Sani G, Aromatario M. Caffeine: Cognitive and Physical Performance Enhancer or Psychoactive Drug?. Current Neuropharmacology. 2015;13(1):71-88. 
  2. Rodak K, Kokot I, Kratz E. Caffeine as a Factor Influencing the Functioning of the Human Body—Friend or Foe?. Nutrients. 2021;13(9):3088.
  3. Urry E, Landolt H. Adenosine, Caffeine, and Performance: From Cognitive Neuroscience of Sleep to Sleep Pharmacogenetics. Sleep, Neuronal Plasticity and Brain Function. 2014;:331-366.
  4. Sugiyama K, Cho T, Tatewaki M, Onishi S, Yokoyama T, Yoshida N et al. Anaphylaxis due to caffeine. Asia Pacific Allergy. 2015;5(1):55. 
  5. Addicott M, Yang L, Peiffer A, Burnett L, Burdette J, Chen M et al. The effect of daily caffeine use on cerebral blood flow: How much caffeine can we tolerate?. Human Brain Mapping. 2009;30(10):3102-3114.
  6. Belayneh A, Molla F. The Effect of Coffee on Pharmacokinetic Properties of Drugs : A Review. BioMed Research International. 2020;2020:1-11.  
  7. Bauer P, Sander J. The Use of Caffeine by People with Epilepsy: the Myths and the Evidence. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. 2019;19(6). 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Julia Ruiz Rua

Neuroscience, Neuroscience, University of St Andrews, Scotland

Motivated Neuroscience undergraduate active in student life, hoping to gain experience in Neurology and Mental Health services. My professional interests are diverse, ranging from Science to Economics and the Fashion Business .
Completed modules in Psychology, Biology, Economics and Finance.
Experienced in, Mental Health Representative of the Disabled Student Network and a Writer

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