Caffeine Failure

"One of these drinks would have had my eyeballs vibrating out of my skull. He's had three and he's still fallen asleep."

Someone Must Have Caffeine (or some other stimulant)—but is so exhausted, even that won't ward off sleep.

This is Truth in Television for two reasons: First, if a person is sufficiently exhausted, no amount of caffeine or stimulant will keep them awake. Second, people develop a tolerance for caffeine leading to diminishing returns on each subsequent dose. On people who are naturally "wired" to a certain degree, like those with ADHD, especially those who have been on medication for a long time (since ADHD medications are typically powerful stimulants that make caffeine look weak by comparison), caffeine may have drastically limited effects, so a dose that would make most people into jittery insomniacs may just cause them to yawn less for an hour.

If it's because someone switches to decaf, it's not this trope. Contrast Caffeine Bullet Time.


Examples

    Film 

    Folklore 
  • One common urban legend is of a student who uses energy drinks or some other stimulant to stay awake to study for an exam—only to hand in gibberish, drivel, or something bizarre due to their brain not working.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Peripheral plot line in House, M.D. episode "Help Me"—the medical mystery of the week—stems from the crane operator apparently having fallen asleep while working, despite being literally overloaded with caffeine (due to ingestion of lots of coffee and caffeine pills). House believes this irregularity to be symptom of a hard-to-diagnose disease, and diagnosing patients with these is his favorite part of the job.
  • The "Engaged Part 1" episode of NCIS has the team having to work overtime on the Mystery of the Week, and Gibbs at one point walks in on Abby's lab to see a huge pile of empty Caf-POW! cups on her desk. She says she's written an algorithm to determine how long she can go on like that and that she's got about five minutes before she becomes "Zabby or zombie Abby".
  • The children of the two rival houses of Step by Step have a bet to see who can stay up for the longest period of time. At one point, Karen is about to crack, and Dana pushes her to keep going and drink more and more coffee ('Coffee is our friend!'), even as its effectiveness is diminishing.

    Music 
  • Mentioned in PMMP's song "Joku raja" to underline just how sick and tired the viewpoint character is of their abusive nightmare relationship.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In one story arc of For Better or for Worse, Michael is so nervous about an upcoming series of exams that he pops a bunch of caffeine pills to help him pull an all-nighter—one of several in a row, as it appears. The last panel shows him sitting at his desk, eyes wide open... and snoring.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: An effect of the Regenerator power, as said in Round and Round (Part 2):
    I stared into my half-empty cup of coffee, letting out a faint sigh. Mom had never liked to let me drink coffee, saying that it made me too hyper. Jackie and Emily didnít care and let me drink as much as I wanted. This was actually my third cup today, but I still didnít feel it. My go juice no longer provided any go.
    ďStupid regeneration,Ē I muttered in annoyance. Iíd already built up an immunity to caffeine, and even if I hadnít, my power would have wiped it out of my system too fast to get much effect.

    Web Video 
  • Ultra Fast Pony. In "Smoky and the Crystals", Princess Cadance is eating coffee beans in order to stay awake and keep casting a magic spell. It gets bad enough that she screams at random intervals and has crazy hallucinations. By the end of the episode, she collapses from exhaustion anyway.

    Western Animation 
  • On one Tom and Jerry short, Tom is trying to not get caught sleeping, so he takes pot after pot of coffee. Eventually he has a Balloon Belly slushing with gallons of coffee, yet is thoroughly exhausted and falls asleep shortly afterwards.
  • In the "Gnomes" episode of South Park the boys are introduced to coffee by Tweak's father while working on a school presentation. Pretty soon they're bouncing off the walls; one Time Skip later, they've crashed completely and Cartman is throwing up coffee on the floor.
  • In The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode spoofing A Nightmare on Elm Street, Bart & Lisa drink coffee to stay awake so Groundskeeper Willie won't kill them in their sleep. Eventually they fall asleep anyway.
  • In the Justice League episode "Only A Dream", Batman has been up for three days in a row and needs to track down a supervillain attacking his teammates in their dreams. He grabs something super-caffeinated, but the rush is noted to wear off fairly quickly. He makes it through sheer stubbornness, and the episode ends with him conked out.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CaffeineFailure