You asked SHC… about coffee naps

How can a stimulant combined with a rest period actually work to keep you alert?

Coffee naps are a trending way to refresh yourself during the day. Here’s a tried-and-true method for incorporating them into your workday so you can stay alert in the afternoon, or as a recharge between odd shifts or while traveling.


Someone recently asked @sleepyheadctrl in Twitter:

“What the heck is a coffee nap? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

Sure seems like the words “coffee” and “nap” should have nothing to do with one another! And yet…

The coffee nap is a thing.

coffee nap sleepyheadcentralWhat is a coffee nap?

The coffee nap is an intentional behavior in which someone knows they need to refresh with a nap, so they consume a cup of coffee prior to the nap.

The technique is simple, with some advanced planning: Consume your choice of caffeine, then take a 15- to 20-minute nap. Chances are good you’ll awaken refreshed in that short period of time.

How it works

When the caffeine you consume is metabolized, it affects your brain by blocking adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a chemical substance in the brain that leads to drowsiness. The caffeine, when it blocks these receptors, binds with them instead, leading to alertness.

However, it takes about 15 to 20 minutes for this alertness to kick in; meanwhile, the act of sleeping is an efficient way to clear out any adenosine in the brain.

Proof of effectiveness

Researchers have studied the coffee nap, looking for ways to apply it as a solution to driver fatigue. Studies going back 20 years show that this specific activity is more refreshing than either a cup of coffee or a nap by itself.

Who should take coffee naps?

Coffee naps are best applied during periods of travel or in conjunction with expected jetlag. They are also known to be rejuvenating for shift workers who have a limited time between “doubles” or while on breaks to sneak in some Zzz.

The research itself showed the best time for a coffee nap tended to be during that mid-afternoon dip following lunch, but if you work odd hours, the coffee nap will probably still work at other times of the day (or night). This night owl does them every morning!

Tips for the best coffee nap experience

  • If you don’t like coffee or tea or other food sources of caffeine, you can find inexpensive caffeine supplements online. The effective dosage of caffeine used in the aforementioned research was found to be 200mg. Keep in mind that the caffeine in most sodas is probably not going to be enough to work.
  • Plan to nap as soon as you’ve finished your caffeine dose so you can achieve the best result.
  • Make sure you choose a napping space that is conducive to uninterrupted sleep (quiet, dark, comfortable).
  • Set an alarm to ensure you only sleep for 15 to 20 minutes; after that time, you might slip into deeper sleep and struggle to awaken. Alarm hack: place the alarm across the room so you have to get up to turn it off.
  • If you find you don’t fully fall asleep during that time, don’t sweat it. Even light dozing or deep relaxation that doesn’t qualify as actual sleep can be just as effective.

~ The Curator

About Tamara Kaye Sellman (621 Articles)

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