What is a Coffee Nap? How Long Should a Coffee Nap Be?

By Geoff McKinnen
Last Updated On February 6th, 2020

Coffee and sleep don’t seem to go hand in hand, but sometimes a cup of coffee right before a short nap may work wonders for you. Gulping down a cup…

What is a Coffee Nap? How Long Should a Coffee Nap Be?

Coffee and sleep don’t seem to go hand in hand, but sometimes a cup of coffee right before a short nap may work wonders for you. Gulping down a cup of coffee before you sleep doesn’t sound right, in fact, coffee and sleep are counterintuitive. But a cup just before a nap allows you to maximize the benefits of both coffee and sleep.

Coffee naps help you in getting a much-needed energy boost in the middle of the day. If you are feeling tired then a caffeine nap maybe your quick-fix solution—gulp down a cup of coffee, preferably black, and snooze for 20 minutes. You may wake up with renewed energy.

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The Science Behind a Coffee Nap

Coffee is a stimulant. When you drink coffee or anything with caffeine, it gets absorbed through the small intestine and passes on to the bloodstream. Caffeine is both water and fat-soluble—it dissolves in your blood and cell membranes. These properties cause caffeine to penetrate the blood-brain barrier and enter your brain.

Once in the brain, caffeine sits in the brain cell receptors meant for adenosine, a chemical neuromodulator which when accumulated in high quantities makes the body feel tired. Structurally caffeine is like adenosine—it can easily fit into the brain cell receptors meant for adenosine. But in doing so, it has to compete with adenosine.

Naps naturally clear adenosine from the brain. If you nap for 20 minutes after drinking your coffee, you are effectively clearing adenosine from the brain and reducing competition for caffeine when it finds its way to the brain cell receptors. In a coffee nap, some levels of competing adenosine get cleared when you nap, so caffeine enjoys the privilege of more space in your brain, heightening your alertness.

Studies Showing Efficacy of Coffee Naps

The theory of coffee naps sounds promising. Scientists and researchers have conducted some studies to support the claim that coffee naps are more effective than either coffee or naps alone. While there have only been a few studies on this subject with small sample sizes, they all point to the fact that coffee naps are effective.

A study in 12 sleepy individuals indicates that participants who took 200 mg of caffeine followed by a 15-minute nap before being placed in a driving simulator for two hours felt 91 percent less sleepy behind the wheel than those who didn’t have caffeine and a nap. This holds true even if they didn’t sleep during their nap period, and just laid there half-asleep.

Another study in 10 young healthy adults showed that caffeine and naps improved performance in computer tasks than just a nap, a nap followed by exposure to bright light, a nap followed by face washing, or no nap at all.

Coffee naps were found to be effective in counteracting driver sleepiness. In this study, 10 sleepy adults who took 150 mg of caffeine before sleeping for less than 15 minutes felt significantly less drowsy during their two hours in a driving simulator, compared to the control group.

All these studies point to the fact that coffee preceding your nap enhances productivity.

Duration of a Coffee Nap

Timing is crucial in a coffee nap. If you want to leverage the benefits of both coffee and a nap, then your coffee nap should be between 15 to 20 minutes long. It shouldn’t be longer than 20 minutes, otherwise, coffee naps aren’t as effective.

The whole process of coffee disintegrating and reaching your brain takes about 20 minutes, and by then, your body will start to feel the effect of coffee. Before that, if you can quickly nap and naturally clear adenosine from your brain then it leaves more room for the caffeine to settle in your brain cell receptors. The presence of more stimulants enhances your performance for the rest of the day.

There is another reason why napping more than 20 minutes is not recommended in a coffee nap. Your body takes around 20 minutes to get into the deeper stages of sleep, and if you were to wake up from a deep-sleep stage then you are likely to feel groggy and disoriented for some time. You will be in a state of sleep inertia, which counters the effect of a coffee nap.

Instead, when you sleep for 20 minutes you wake up before entering the deeper stages of sleep. You don’t experience sleep inertia and wake up feeling refreshed.

How to Take a Coffee Nap

It’s best to quickly gulp down your coffee, because if you sip it slowly then even before you finish your cup the caffeine may start affecting your body. You may opt for a cold coffee, so its easier to finish. It’s better to avoid sugar, cream, or milk—opt for a black coffee or espresso shots. This maximizes the benefits of a coffee nap as your body gets caffeine in an unadulterated form. Though there are other caffeinated beverages like tea, soda, and energy drinks, you need to ensure that you are getting the required amount to feel the effects of caffeine.

Find a comfortable spot for yourself, drink your coffee, close your eyes, lie down or sit back in a relaxed position, and set an alarm for 20 minutes. Even if you are partially asleep, this will help your body to reap the maximum benefits of a coffee nap.

FAQs

What is the best time of the day for a coffee nap?

For a mid-day energy boost, coffee naps are ideal. But if you feel lethargic in the morning after waking up, you can still try a coffee nap. Under no circumstances should you try a coffee nap when you are close to bedtime. The effect of caffeine does not wear off quickly and leads to sleep disruptions. You can try it anytime six hours before bedtime.

Can you sleep after drinking coffee?

Caffeine affects your quality of sleep. But in a coffee nap, you don’t enter deep sleep. You want a quick nap to naturally clear adenosine and make way for caffeine to set into your brain cell receptors for stimulation.

Conclusion

The united effort of coffee and a power nap is evident in a coffee nap. Your energy levels peak when you can optimally utilize the effect of caffeine. A 20-minute nap sets the pace for maximizing the benefits of caffeine.


About the author

Geoff McKinnen is a freelance writer focusing mainly on the healthcare industry and has written articles on everything from foods to help you lose weight to the connection between Alzheimer’s and sleep. Geoff’s passionate about helping readers improve their well-being to lead happier lives. Outside of work, Geoff enjoys cycling and hiking and believes that by leading a healthy lifestyle, he can help others do the same.

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