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. Caffeine works by suppressing the sleep hormones adenosine and melatonin; if the brain has already caused those to enter the bloodstream, caffeine has no effect. 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.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors had a character actually eating coffee grinds in an attempt to stay awake and avoid Freddy from trying to kill her in her dreams. It did not work, at all.
- In Before I Wake, young Cody's dreams manifest in real life. He is so terrified of his night terrors of a being he calls the "Canker Man" that he frequently drinks soda and pops caffeine pills at night to stay awake. One night, though, his brain simply shuts down from lack of sleep, and is attacked by a manifestation of the class bully while yelling, "I'm awake! This shouldn't be happening!" over and over.
- 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.
- 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 Inbetweeners: In "Exam Time", Will is overworking himself and relying on energy drinks and caffeine pills to keep him awake whilst revising. His revision efforts go horribly wrong, with him failing to understand anything he reads no matter how many times he reads it, and starting to get confused over what certain words mean. Simon suggests he get more sleep and stop drinking energy drinks, but Will refuses, insisting that they help. Eventually Will suffers a Potty Failure while taken his last exam.
- 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.
- Mentioned in PMMP's song "Joku raja" to underline just how sick and tired the viewpoint character is of their abusive nightmare relationship.
- 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.
- FreeFall. Mr. Raibert has answered several emergency calls during the night, and has taken some high-caffiene energy drinks. When he stops answering calls, Max Post and the chief of police look for him. He's found asleep at the keyboard, unable to continue.
- 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 didnt care and let me drink as much as I wanted. This was actually my third cup today, but I still didnt feel it. My go juice no longer provided any go.Stupid regeneration, I muttered in annoyance. Id already built up an immunity to caffeine, and even if I hadnt, my power would have wiped it out of my system too fast to get much effect.
- 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.
- In the Tom and Jerry short "Sleepy-Time Tom", 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.
- Regular Show: Mordecai and Rigby drink huge quantities of coffee so they can earn enough overtime money for concert tickets. By the time they arrive they're so exhausted they fall asleep after the opening chord.
- 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.
- Justice League:
- In "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 quickly. He makes it through sheer stubbornness, and the episode ends with him conked out.
- Earlier in the same episode, Batman tries to wake Superman by giving him some stimulants, but isn't surprised when it fails. "This is someone who could have a building fall on him and not feel it."
- In the Looney Tunes cartoon, "Bedtime for Sniffles", Sniffles the Mouse is trying to stay awake until midnight on Christmas Eve so he can see Santa Claus. Throughout the cartoon he keeps nodding off. He finally decides that coffee will keep him awake. It ultimately fails. By the end, he falls asleep right before midnight, just barely missing Santa.
- The Help!...It's the Hair Bear Bunch! episode "The Bear Who Came To Dinner" centers on Square Bear who is faking an injury that zookeeper Peevly is on the hook for. Square is in a body cast, so to ensure that he doesn't move from bed, Peevly tells Botch to watch him 24 hours a day. "And don't let me catch you asleep on the job, you hear?!" he charges. Botch eventually does fall asleep...with his eyes open, giving the bears the chance to sneak out to a drive-in movie.
- In the Hey Arnold! episode "Helga Sleepwalks", when Helga starts sleepwalking to Arnold's house every night, Helga decides to drink a lot of coffee to keep herself awake. It doesn't work and Helga sleepwalks to Arnold's house the following night.