Coffee naps have been gaining popularity recently as a way to boost energy and productivity. But what exactly is a coffee nap? How does it work? And what are the benefits? In this article, I’ll explore the science behind coffee naps, their potential benefits and downsides, and what you need to know if you want to try it for yourself.
What Are Coffee Naps?
A coffee nap, also known as a caffeine nap, involves drinking a cup of coffee or other highly caffeinated beverage and then taking a short nap (usually around 20 minutes or less) immediately afterward. The idea is that the caffeine takes about 20 minutes to start working in your body, so by taking a nap during this time, you can maximize the benefits of both the caffeine and the nap.
How Do Coffee Naps Work?
When you drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages, the caffeine molecules bind to receptors in your brain that are normally filled by adenosine, a chemical that builds up in your brain throughout the day and causes drowsiness. By blocking these receptors, caffeine makes you feel more alert and awake.
However, the effects of caffeine can take some time to kick in. It typically takes about 20–30 minutes for caffeine to reach its peak levels in your blood. By taking a short nap immediately after drinking coffee, you can rest during this time and wake up feeling even more alert and refreshed than if you just drank coffee by itself.
How Do I Take a Coffee Nap?
If you want to try a coffee nap for yourself, here’s how to do it. While you can try this anytime of the day, some people say that coffee naps are most effective when taken at a time of day in which you already feel very tired (such as during an afternoon slump or in the evening before a planned all-nighter).
Steps for an effective coffee nap
- Drink a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage.
- Try to drink it quickly to give yourself as much time as possible for the caffeine to take effect.
- Set a timer for 20–30 minutes and take a nap.
- Find a quiet, dark place to rest and try to relax as much as possible.
- Wake up when the timer goes off.
- You may want to have a glass of water or do some light stretching to help wake yourself up.
- Enjoy the benefits of your coffee nap!
- You should feel more alert and awake, with the effects of the caffeine and your nap working together to give you an extra boost of energy.
Benefits of Coffee Naps
There are several reasons many people enjoy coffee naps. Below are three benefits of taking a coffee nap compared to just drinking coffee or taking a nap by itself.
Extra boost in alertness and productivity
Coffee naps have been shown to help increase alertness and productivity. By combining the benefits of caffeine with a nap, you can wake up feeling even more alert and focused, which can help you be more productive and perform better on important tasks.
A study found that taking a 15-minute nap after consuming caffeine significantly increased alertness and reduced feelings of sleepiness when compared to a nap or caffeine alone.1 This suggests that the combination of caffeine and a nap can provide a more potent boost to alertness and productivity than either by itself.
In addition to improving alertness and productivity, coffee naps may also provide mood-boosting benefits. Napping in general has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress, and caffeine has been shown to improve mood and cognitive performance.2 By combining a nap with caffeine, many people find that they can experience an even greater mood boost.
Reduced sleep inertia (post-nap grogginess)
Sleep inertia is a common experience that occurs when you wake up after you’ve been sleeping. It refers to that unpleasant feeling of grogginess, disorientation, and sluggishness that can linger for several minutes to hours after waking up.
This can be particularly problematic for people who need to be alert and focused immediately upon waking up, such as those who work in high-stress or unpredictable environments.
This is where coffee naps shine. By consuming caffeine before taking a nap, you can markedly reduce the effects of sleep inertia. This is because by the time you wake up from your nap, the caffeine has had time to enter your bloodstream and reach your brain, reducing the feeling of grogginess and increasing alertness. This effect is particularly noticeable when the nap is brief, such as 15–20 minutes.
Therefore, by reducing sleep inertia, coffee naps can help you feel more alert and focused immediately upon waking up from a nap, which can improve your overall performance and productivity.
Downsides of Coffee Naps
While coffee naps can be a great way to boost energy and productivity, there are a few potential downsides to be aware of.
- Difficulty falling asleep: Not everyone finds it easy to fall asleep quickly, especially after drinking coffee. If you have trouble falling asleep, a coffee nap may not work as well for you.
- Interference with nighttime sleep: Drinking coffee too close to bedtime can interfere with your ability to fall asleep and get a good night’s rest. If you are sensitive to caffeine, you may want to avoid coffee naps in the afternoon or evening to avoid disrupting your sleep.
- Coffee naps don’t work for everyone: Caffeine can have vastly different effects on different people. For some, coffee naps just aren’t doable. Therefore, when trying it out, it is important to monitor how your body responds to caffeine and adjust accordingly, doing what is best for your body and your needs.
An Energy Booster That’s Worth a Try
While a “coffee nap” may sound counterintuitive, for many people, it’s an incredibly effective way to gain some extra energy during the day.
By drinking a cup of coffee before taking a short nap, you can wake up feeling more refreshed and focused. The caffeine from the coffee will kick in just as you wake up, making you feel more alert and ready to tackle your day.
While coffee naps may not be suitable for everyone, they can be an excellent tool for those looking to boost their productivity and alertness during times when a regular nap or cup of coffee by itself just won’t do.
If you do decide to try a coffee nap, be sure to keep your nap short and consume your coffee quickly before lying down. And, as always, listen to your body and consult with your health care provider if you have any concerns.
Here’s to coffee and naps!
- Horne JA, Reyner LA. Counteracting driver sleepiness: effects of napping, caffeine, and placebo. Psychophysiology. 1996;33(3):306-309. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8986.1996.tb00455.x
- Farag NH, Vincent AS, McKey BS, et al. Caffeine and sleep duration in middle-aged and older adults. Sleep Med. 2017;32:19-22. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2016.12.002
If you would like your writing to be considered for publication on Health + Inspiration, visit here for information regarding submissions.