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sleep / wellness
Coffee Naps: What Are They and Do They Work?
by BetterSleep
Oct 26 2022 • 5 min read
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Drinking coffee and power naps seem to go against the conventional advice that caffeine interferes with sleep. However, if you drink coffee immediately before a short daytime nap of 20 minutes, you can maximize the benefits of both sleep and coffee.

Coffee naps or caffeine naps are believed to enhance energy levels more than if you just took a nap or drank a coffee on its own. One reason for this working is that the caffeine starts to kick in immediately after you wake up from your quick nap.

If you often feel tired in the afternoon and want a much-needed energy boost, then a caffeine nap could be your solution. Read on to learn the science behind coffee naps, how it affects your body, how to take one, and if it’s right for you.

The Science Behind Coffee Naps

Caffeine is a stimulant. Drinking coffee or any caffeinated beverage gets taken into the small intestine and, eventually, the bloodstream.

Caffeine is fat and water-soluble and dissolves in your cell membranes and blood. This allows caffeine to enter the brain, where it sits inside the brain cell receptors, where a chemical called adenosine also sits.

This chemical can make the body feel tired in high quantities. Caffeine and adenosine will compete for space inside the brain cell receptors.

Napping helps to reduce adenosine levels, reducing the competition for caffeine and helping you to feel more alert.

In one study, 12 individuals took 200mg of caffeine just before a 15-minute nap. They were then placed in a driving simulator for two hours and were reported to be 91% less sleepy than those who didn’t have a coffee nap.

Another study of 10 healthy young adults who took coffee naps concluded that their performance with computer tasks increased for up to 1 hour afterward.

How Does a Coffee Nap Affect Your Body?

After drinking coffee, caffeine passes through the small intestine into the bloodstream, crossing the blood-brain barrier in around 20 minutes.

After reaching the brain, caffeine competes with adenosine for space in brain cell receptors. Napping naturally removes adenosine (which causes fatigue), allowing caffeine to bind to the brain’s receptors.

This stimulates the body to function, enhancing the effects of coffee and making you feel more alert after your nap.

How Long Should a Coffee Nap be?

Timing is extremely important to feel the best effects of a coffee nap. It shouldn’t be longer than 20 minutes. Otherwise, your body may enter deep sleep, reducing its effectiveness.

Waking up from the deep sleep stage can leave you feeling disorientated and groggy, which is the opposite of what you want to feel after your coffee nap.

It takes for coffee to reach your brain is about 20 minutes. This means napping any longer may reduce your coffee nap’s positive effects.

How to Take a Caffeine Nap

When preparing for your caffeine nap, opting for a black coffee without milk or sugar is best. Cream or milk can cause digestive issues, and sugar can cause an energy spike, making it hard to fall asleep.

Follow these simple steps to take a coffee nap:

Drink Your Coffee Quickly

Grab a cup of coffee and drink it quickly. If you prefer to sip, opt for an expresso. 200 milligrams, equal to one or two cups of coffee, was found in a study to give an effective energy boost.

Lie Down in a Comfortable Spot

Now, find a comfortable place to lie in the office or at home. Choose a spot that is dark and cool, and that will be uninterrupted.

Set Your Alarm for 20 Minutes Time

Set your smartphone alarm for 15 - 20 minutes, depending on how long you have available to rest. Make sure the alarm volume is turned up so you don’t oversleep.

As already mentioned, if you sleep too long, you may enter the deep sleep stage and wake up groggy.

Enjoy Your Afternoon Nap

Now you can lie down and enjoy a short nap. If you can’t doze off, try not to stress, as even the effects of light sleep can have benefits.

Wake Up and Enjoy Increased Energy

Upon waking, asses how you feel. It may take some time to make taking a coffee nap part of your routine.

What’s the Best Time of Day for a Coffee Nap?

When the afternoon rolls around, it’s common to feel a dip in energy. Even if you feel tired in the morning, you’re usually busy getting ready for work or school, and you wake up as you go.

If you’re planning a coffee nap, sometime between lunchtime and the afternoon is recommended.

One other factor to consider is the time you go to bed. Caffeine stays in your system for around six hours, so drinking it too late could make it hard to fall asleep in the evening.

To get the most from your coffee nap and to minimize any disruption to your nighttime routine, schedule it according to when you sleep. So, if you sleep at 10 pm, have your coffee nap at 4 pm.

What are the Benefits of Coffee Naps?

A coffee nap may increase energy more than just napping or drinking a coffee on its own. The many benefits include:

  • Improved alertness, energy, and productivity during your day
  • Enjoy enhanced regenerating properties from your nap
  • Have more energy to spend time with family, friends, and coworkers when your day is complete
  • Make good use of the time you’re tired while waiting for your coffee to kick in
  • Avoid the drowsiness that’s often felt when you nap longer than 20 minutes
  • Have enough energy and focus on finishing your work or college assignments for the day

Do Coffee Naps Have the Same Effect as Power Naps?

Power naps are the same as coffee naps, minus the coffee. A power nap should be kept under 20 minutes, just like a caffeine-fueled one, so you avoid falling into a deep sleep and waking up groggier.

Some people find that power naps work fine for them. But, if you wake up and still find it hard to get going, maybe adding a cup of coffee into the equation could be the answer.

The extra caffeine, immediately before your nap, allows you to enjoy the energizing effects as soon as you wake up.

Limitations to be Aware of Before Taking a Coffee Nap

Before taking your first coffee nap, there are a few limitations. These include:

  • Caffeine naps are not a substitute for proper sleep. They should be timed in relation to your bedtime to avoid any adverse effects on the body
  • It’s important to remember that caffeine affects you for up to six hours. Avoid caffeine before your main bedtime
  • Coffee naps have been proven effective, but only in limited amounts
  • Caffeine can cause irritability, palpitations, restlessness, and nervousness. If you’re sensitive to the effects of caffeine, coffee naps may not be right for you

How to Increase Your Energy Levels if Coffee Naps are Not for You?

If coffee naps or just napping, in general, is not for you, there are many other ways to help you power through the afternoon slump. These include:

Eat a Healthy Snack

The energy may have worn off from your lunch, leaving you a little lethargic. Prepare healthy snacks to take with you to the office to power through the afternoon.

Go For a Walk

Being out in the bright light and fresh air can work wonders for energy levels. Ditch the dull cubicle and let your mind and body re-energize with a stroll outside.

Take a Few Deep Breaths

If you’re feeling a little low after lunch, take the time to practice deep breathing exercises. Focusing on slowing your breathing and engaging your diaphragm can help to revive energy levels.

Read a Few Pages of a Book

If you’re feeling low and stuck at work, focusing on a different task, such as reading a book, can be just what you need. Experts believe that disconnecting and reconnecting to a tough task can help you overcome it.

Try Yoga or Meditation

Yoga and meditation are known to improve brain function and increase energy levels. Try out a guided meditation like on the BetterSleep app, and you’ll be ready to tackle anything your boss throws at you.

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