It’s 2pm and you’re beat. Work is piling up, messages are incoming, and all you can think about is how desperately you need a nap. After all, a nap is the best way to recharge, right? Or a cup of coffee would help?

Maybe not. Scientists say that coffee naps are the best. What is a coffee nap? It means drinking coffee quickly and sleeping for 20 minutes before the caffeine reaches your brain. Then when you wake up you’ll feel fully charged.

Sound like madness? There is science behind why this works.

Both naps and coffee have one thing in common – they help blunt the effect of adenosine, the molecule in your brain that builds up during the day and makes you feel sleepy. Naps help flush it out of your system and caffeine looks so much like adenosine that it can plug into the adenosine receptor and block its action.

Together, the coffee and nap pack a punch in combating fatigue.

We all know that power naps have amazing benefits on health and productivity. They enhance memory, decision-making, motor skills, and perceptions, among other things. Plus they have the added benefit of reducing blood pressure and helping us deal with all the stress that we face every day. But a nap on its own can still leave you feeling tired – thanks to that bit of adenosine in your brain that wasn’t properly flushed out. Coffee – or more specifically the caffeine in coffee – is also one of our greatest weapons in reducing fatigue and staying on top of that never-ending list of things to do. But if you’re feeling really tired – and the sleep-promoting adenosine hasn’t been flushed out of your system – then the caffeine itself may not be enough. That’s why drinking coffee and taking a power nap will give you the best results – it’s like attacking an enemy from two different fronts. And studies show its superiority over either coffee or nap alone.

But you have to time it right.

Caffeine takes about 20 minutes to make its way to your small intestine, into your bloodstream and up to your brain. To get the most bang for you buck, you need to drink a cup of coffee quickly – whether it is an espresso shot or iced drink – and then settle in for a quick nap. That way, you take advantage of that 20-minute lull period before the coffee kicks in. If you spend 30 minutes leisurely drinking a cup of coffee and chatting it up with friends, then you’ve missed the window.

If you’re on schedule with your nap, you get the benefit of both the restful nap and the energy-promoting caffeine. The result? That afternoon slump suddenly transforms into a few hours where you get stuff done.

There is one caveat…..(isn’t there always?)

Weird as it sounds, you don’t want your nap to last too long. Any longer than 20 minutes and you risk falling into a deeper stage of sleep and waking up groggy instead of rested. This so-called “sleep inertia” usually doesn’t last long, but it can linger for up to 4 hours. Ugh….talk about a productivity killer. So, it’s important to keep on schedule with the coffee nap “protocol” to set yourself up for success.

While there isn’t a ton of new research coming out on the coffee nap (because getting Federal dollars for this when there are things like cancer out there might be a bit tough), you can do a little experiment on yourself. Next time you’re feeling that afternoon slump, try a coffee-nap instead and see how you feel. Hey, maybe that’ll be the afternoon when that pile on your desk doesn’t look quite so bad.

Featured photo credit: Jeremy Ricketts via unsplash.com

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