Coffee nap? I must’ve read that wrong!!
Nope! You read that title correctly, it does indeed say coffee nap and it’s actually a real, scientifically-proven napping technique. Coffee and naps actually do go well with each other.
You’re likely here because you had to Google whether or not coffee naps are a hoax. Don’t worry, I did exactly the same.
I was so skeptical about the legitimacy of this concept that I had to try it out for myself. I have never been able to nap, but that actually makes the results of this little experiment even more significant. But more on that in a minute. Fist let’s cover the basics of a coffee nap.
What IS a caffeine nap?
The term coffee nap, sometimes referred to as a caffeine nap nap, seems counterintuitive. A warm cup of coffee boost alertness, preventing that midday sluggish feeling. But when you look at the scientific logic behind caffeine naps, it makes perfect sense.
A coffee nap involves consuming caffeine, either in a beverage or pill form, and immediately taking a 20ish minute nap. The idea here is to fall asleep before the caffeine kicks in.
The entire idea rests on two basic scientific understandings:
1. Removing that sleepy feeling – Adenosine is a chemical compound in your brain that causes drowsiness. When this drowsiness prompts you to nap, your brain naturally clears out the adenosine as you sleep.
2. A delayed energy boost – Caffeine takes about 20-30 minutes to metabolize and hit your brain, where it generally fights to replace the adenosine, giving you that jolt of energy.
By falling asleep for 20-30 minutes immediately after consuming caffeine, you naturally reduce the amount of adenosine in your brain that the caffeine would otherwise have to overcome. Ideally, you will gently wake from your nap just as the caffeine begins to kick in.
Why Coffee Naps Beat Regular Naps or Coffee Breaks
It’s been proven time and time again that a quick 20-minute power nap can help beat afternoon sluggishness. A strong shot of espresso or cup o’ joe can offer that midday burst of energy that we all so desperately need
While both can be effective within their own right, what if you combined them to create a super-charged energy boosting solution?
When you settle down for that post-lunch siesta, your brain naturally eliminates the drowsiness inducing chemical adenosine. Once you wake up with less adenosine slowing down your brain cells, you’ll probably feel pretty refreshed.
But, if you gulp down some caffeine prior to that siesta, you can wake up feeling SUPER refreshed. With less adenosine to compete with, that caffeine is able to easily flood your brain receptors; resulting in a superior energy boost.
Coffee Naps Are Backed By Science
Sleep researcher Dr. David Dinges, a professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, says the following regarding the energy boost provided by a coffee nap:
If you can fall asleep in your nap before caffeine does that, when it’s time to wake up, you’re getting the benefits of the caffeine perfectly timed with the nap sleep benefit.1
Essentially, a caffeine nap combines the advantages of the two fatigue-busting techniques and supercharges your afternoon energy boost.
Research strongly supports this trendy new nap theory. Sleep researchers in London concluded that drinking a cup of coffee immediately followed by a 20-minute nap, offered significantly higher restorative benefits than consuming caffeine or napping alone.2
The researchers placed sleep-deprived individuals in driving simulators and tested a variety of strategies commonly used to curb sleepiness. Techniques that were tested included cold air, 200 milligrams of caffeine, a break with no nap, a short nap, and a caffeine nap. The goal was to determine which strategy both improved driving performance and reduced drowsiness most effectively.
Much to everyone’s surprise, the seemingly contradictory caffeine nap beat out all of the other strategies. Participants who consumed caffeine and then took a quick nap had the highest level of increased alertness and performance during simulated driving.
On the other side of the world, Japanese researchers studied the effects of a coffee nap vs a regular nap. 10 participants in the study were required to perform a series of memory tests after either a shining light in their eyes, a regular nap or a coffee nap. Participants performed significantly better at the memory tests after a coffee nap and also subjectively rated themselves as being less tired.3
There is even some evidence that a caffeine nap can help people maintain a normal life after long periods without proper sleep.
One study examined how 24 young men went without proper sleep for a full 24 hour period, taking only short naps. 12 were given a placebo and a regular nap before performing a series of cognition tests while the other 12 had a coffee nap before performing the same tests. The 12 who took the coffee nap performed roughly the same as they did after a full night of sleep.4
How To Take A Coffee Nap
If you plan to embark on this exciting new napping trend, there are a few things to keep in mind for napping success.
I realize that the concept seems pretty simple, drink caffeine and take a nap…but bear with me here. You wouldn’t want to improperly execute your caffeine nap and end up missing an important afternoon meeting or not be able to fall sleep that night.
Follow these steps for your first caffeine nap and you will be an expert in no time:
1. Find a cozy place snooze.
Depending on where you work, this might prove a bit challenging. Before your nap, scout out some possible locations around your place of employment. Do your best to find a private, quiet area that allows you to dim the lights and remain undisturbed for a solid 20 minutes.
Keeping sleep accessories such as a pillow, blanket, eye mask, or ear plugs handy at your job will help you create the perfect tranquil environment to execute your afternoon nap.
2. Get that caffeine into your body – and quickly!
No, you don’t have to chug a scalding hot cup of coffee, but you also don’t want to casually sip your beverage over a long period of time. The idea is to get the caffeine in your body and fall asleep before it has a chance to metabolize.
Coffee is a highly effective option for dosing yourself with caffeine, as are various caffeine pills or sugar free energy drinks. Steer clear of sugar-laden soft drinks as the sugar may make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
Also, be sure not to consume too much caffeine, as researchers say that 300mg or more can cause those caffeine jitters and possibly keep you from sleeping later that night.
3. Set an alarm – or two!
Ensuring that you are able to wake up before your body enters into deep sleep mode is imperative to the effectiveness of a caffeine nap. If you are one of those people who doesn’t just sleep, but rather unwakeable ‘comas’ (as I like to call it), then set a couple of loud alarms to guarantee that you don’t sleep too long.
Sleeping too long puts you at risk for waking up groggy or missing that highly desired caffeine jolt. If you are worried about not waking up, set one alarm very close to your sleeping area and set one or two more alarms in a place that requires you to get up and walk to turn them off. You could also alert a co-worker of your nap and ask them to check on you at the time that you plan to wake.
4. Get snoozin’!
All that’s left to do is hunker down in your sleep space, pull on that eye mask, and enter into dreamland! If you find it difficult to fully relax in order to fall asleep the first few times, you may need to just keep trying until your body becomes accustomed to the routine. You could also try breaking out some lavender scented candles, soothing relaxation music, or guided meditation.
The Flip Side of Caffeine Naps
As with any health-related topic, there are pros and cons that you must weigh when considering your options. When it comes to caffeine naps, the list of pros and cons is pretty straightforward and brief on both sides.
The obvious benefit of caffeine napping include getting that burst of afternoon energy to effectively get through the rest of your day! Another advantage is the time efficiency of this short and sweet nap; most people can accomplish it on their lunch break and still have time to enjoy a healthy meal.
In terms of the cons of caffeine napping, there aren’t too many! As with a regular nap, with a caffeine nap you run the risk of sleeping too long and feeling even more groggy than before you dozed off. But setting sufficient alarms is a pretty surefire way to avoid this caffeine nap faux pas.
Another potential con involves recent research done at Loughborough University that tested the effects of caffeine naps on verbal, motor, and perceptual memory. These studies showed that while a caffeine nap can decrease drowsiness and increase driving abilities, it also can seriously impact the processes in our brain involving explicit memories due to the caffeine.4
My response to the research showing how caffeine naps can negatively impact memory function is mild, at best. This research certainly did not keep me from trying out this caffeine nap phenomenon. If you really think about it, lack of sleep is probably even worse for long-term and overall memory function than a small dose of caffeine before napping.
Most people are going to drink their caffeine with or without a nap; caffeine drinkers are a dedicated bunch. So, it kind of seems like throwing a memory-boosting nap in after consuming memory-stunting caffeine would just act to cancel out the harmful effects, right?
My Newfound Love of (Caffeine) Naps
I have not been sleeping well lately. If you have read any of my other posts, you know that I recently separated from my husband and am working on adjusting to sleeping alone-no easy task. Some nights I manage to fall asleep by 1am or 2am, but more often than not, the sun is coming up as I am finally laying down.
As a writer, I am able to work through the night and sleep during the day if I need to, though I generally hate the feeling that that kind of schedule gives me. I also have the ability to nap, which is an activity that I have truly never understood. My experiences with napping in the past have left me waking up way more tired than I was to begin with. What’s the point?
I’m always up for trying something new though and after reading about the effectiveness of caffeine naps, I thought, why not? Since I happened to be awake until 5:30am last night, there was really no better time than the present.
Prior to writing this article, I brewed myself up a nice cup of Nescafe coffee, complete with Pumpkin Spice creamer of course, and gulped it down. No time to savor this coffee moment today, I had deadlines to meet!
Since I work from home, I was lucky enough to nap in my own bed. I hopped right into bed, triple checked that my alarm was set for 20 minutes, closed my eyes, and started redecorating my apartment in my mind. Don’t ask me why, but it works like a charm for helping me fall asleep.
When my alarm went off, I didn’t exactly jump out of bed ready to conquer the world as I had kind of pictured doing prior to this nap experiment. But, I also wasn’t excessively groggy to the point where I hit snooze and rolled back over. Once, I stood up and stretched a moment, I felt pretty darn good! As I continued on with my day, I definitely noticed a bit of a pep in my step that isn’t often there. I think that I need to try it out a few more times, but overall, I’m convinced!
A caffeine nap will certainly not solve all of your sleep-deprivation issues, but it absolutely can act as a sufficient way to beat that afternoon sluggishness that we all know too well.
Have you ever tried a caffeine nap? Let me know in the comments below!