Power naps are awesome especially during the middle of a hard workday. Sometimes you cannot help it. You have been awake since the early morning hours. You somehow woke up five minutes before your alarm went off. Your morning was chaotic with everything going wrong and no time to troubleshoot. Of course you turn to your trusted friend, coffee. However, the coffee was only enough to keep you from killing someone but not enough to fully recharge you. The rest of your day has left you feeling drained and exhausted. When this happens, your body naturally tries to rest. But going to sleep is out of the question. How about a power nap? This is an excellent idea but you may still need an extra burst of energy when you wake. How about a coffee nap? Yes, this is a thing.
So what is a coffee nap? It is when you drink a cup of coffee before taking a power nap. Since power naps take about 15-20 minutes, which is usually enough time to recharge your brain, the caffeine you ingested prior has reached your brain by the time you wake. Therefore, you wake up caffeinated and more alert.
I’ve read a few articles about this to determine the science. This is what I’ve found. When you drink coffee, the caffeine enters your bloodstream and reaches your brain usually within 30 minutes. Once in the brain, the caffeine locks onto the receptors and blocks the effects of adenosine.
Adenosine are molecules that cause natural tiredness when it connects to your receptors. Your receptors are blocked when enough of them collect. This slows down the nerve activity in your brain causing you to become tired. The adenosine levels increase when you’re awake and decrease when you’re asleep. In other words, sleeping “unclogs” your receptors of adenosine.
The caffeine in your body takes effect about 20-30 minutes after being ingested. So by sleeping for 20 minutes, you can reduce the amount of adenosine the caffeine has to compete with making the effects of the caffeine greater when you wake up (Howard. 2014). This is because caffeine does not block every receptor but will compete with adenosine for these spots, filling some, but not others (Stromberg. 2015).
So let’s break down the coffee nap:
- Drink coffee and time it so that you will be able to nap for 20 minutes BEFORE the caffeine hits your brain
- Take a nap
- Be sure to wake up in the allotted time. Oversleeping will cause you to go into sleep inertia, which is a fancy science term for feeling groggy after sleep
- Wake up and conquer the world
The timing is crucial. Don’t oversleep or take a nap after the caffeine hits your system. This will throw off your brain and disrupt your performance and your sleeping pattern. The reason being is that you are beginning to enter the next phase of the sleep cycle after 30 minutes.
There are studies that support the coffee nap. According to a 1997 study conducted by the UK Department of Transport, 12 sleep-deprived people drank coffee five minutes before taking a 15-minute nap. They then did a driving test to see their alertness level. The people that took a coffee nap were less likely to drift out of their lanes during a two hour simulated drive, compared to when they just drank coffee and had no nap (Chow. 2017). This is just one of a few studies that support the coffee nap.
I have taken a coffee nap before. It worked for me. I felt more recharged than I would have after a regular nap. I was certainly more ready to overcome any challenges for the remainder of my day. Of course the best remedy for an exhausted body and brain is getting adequate sleep. The coffee nap is more of a quick temporary fix. But give it a shot. It may help during those hectic days.
Citations and Other Resources
Health Check: What are Coffee Naps and can they Help You Power Through the Day? By Chin Moi Chow. 2017. http://theconversation.com/health-check-what-are-coffee-naps-and-can-they-help-you-power-through-the-day-73952
Scientists Agree: Coffee Naps are Better than Coffee or Naps Alone. By Joseph Stromberg. 2015. https://www.vox.com/2014/8/28/6074177/coffee-naps-caffeine-science
Yes, Coffee Can Actually Improve the Power of Your Power Naps. By Jacqueline Howard. 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/03/coffee-sleep-power-naps-science_n_5753360.html
The Ultimate Power Nap! Drinking Coffee Before a 20-minute sleep is the Best Way to Improve Alertness. By Ellie Zolfagharifard. 2014. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2739671/The-ultimate-power-nap-Drinking-coffee-BEFORE-20-minute-sleep-improves-alertness-wake-up.html
The Valley Sleep Center in Phoenix Arizona. http://valleysleepcenter.com/12-facts-about-sleep-inertia/