I don’t know about you, but coffee has pretty much become a staple in my diet. I usually start my day off with two cups (at the least), and go through several more as the hours pass by. If I’m lucky, I’ll even top it off with a triple latte or something crazy like that.
Thanks to my (minor) addiction, I’m always looking for new ways to prove that coffee (or more generally speaking, caffeine) is in some way beneficial to your health. In this article I’ll explore one of the more unbelievable positive aspects of coffee: that it’ll make your naps more effective! If that sounds counter-intuitive, I understand. I was a bit bamboozled too before I did some more research into the subject.
Anyways, read on to find out why taking these so-called “coffee naps” (literally the act of taking a nap right after drinking a cup of coffee) will lead to a more energetic you…
How exactly does a coffee nap work?
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no scientist. That being said, I did well enough in my chemistry classes to be able to give you a basic rundown of how this works from a scientific perspective.
First things first, I’ll go over this thing called adenosine. Basically, it’s a substance that builds up in your brain while you’re awake. Once it surpasses a certain threshold, you become drowsy, and that feeling will get progressively more intense until you feel absolutely obligated to rest your head on your keyboard and fall asleep.
Coffee is effective at keeping drowsiness at bay because it’s able to combat the effects of adenosine. Of course, there’s no better alternative to eliminating tiredness than a full night of sleep, where adenosine is essentially flushed out of your brain (more on that in a bit).
Knowing this, it becomes easier to see why a coffee nap is more effective at defeating the stereotypical 2pm crash than either coffee or naps alone. By itself, coffee will work to block adenosine from connecting to your brain, but if you’re already drowsy it will have to work hard to compete against all of the chemical buildup in your head. If you only take a nap, you’ll get rid of a lot of adenosine, but simultaneously you’re leaving your brain receptors wide open for more to return as soon as you wake up.
Here’s the key: it takes about twenty minutes for caffeine to take effect. This means that in order to perform a coffee nap, you have to slurp down your cup of java and quickly find a place to rest. This will give you a little under twenty minutes for a nap, which is good, as napping for any longer than that can lead to sleep inertia (basically you want to keep your naps short or you’ll enter deep sleep, which is harder to wake up from).
If your timing is on track, the caffeine will hit your brain as soon as you wake up from your short nap. Your brief respite will have cleared the adenosine from your brain, and the caffeine will block any more from entering for a period of time.
Research proving the coffee nap’s effectiveness.
Conceptually speaking, it’s no wonder why a coffee nap is superior to just drinking coffee or taking a nap. You get the best of both worlds. Still, it can’t hurt to look at some of the research proving this point definitively.
First, let’s look at coffee itself. We know about its anti-drowsy effects, and I’ve talked already about what it does to adenosine. In addition to that, its been known to boost people’s focus and ability to come up with imaginative ideas. Indeed, according to author Mason Currey, “Beethoven and Proust, Glenn Gould and Francis Bacon, and Jean-Paul Sartre and Gustav Mahler” all benefited from the brain-boosting effects of coffee.
Not only that, but coffee is a known stress-reliever, so much so that Navy (freaking) Seals have been known to use the stuff to help them deal with stressful situations. Pretty cool, huh?
And if stress-relief and mind-enhancing properties weren’t enough, coffee also fortifies your body for intense workouts, meaning you’ll be able to run faster and push yourself harder for a longer period of time. With how awesome coffee is, is it any wonder that combining it with naps has an extremely beneficial effect? Let’s look at the evidence:
One study from Japan gave memory tests both to subjects who had taken coffee naps, and those who had taken regular naps. The results were clear: those who had done the former fared better than their counterparts.
Folks in England tested this theory as well, evaluating the driving abilities of those who either took a coffee nap, drank coffee, drank a placebo (decaf), or just napped for fifteen minutes. Those who coffee napped were the clear victors.
In yet another study, researchers wanted to see whether or not coffee naps could sustain a person throughout a 24 hour period of no-sleep. They used two groups, each of which were allowed to take naps throughout the day instead of sleeping the usual 8 hours. One was given coffee before naps, the other a placebo. As the day dragged on, the placebo group received markedly lower scores on cognition tests than their caffeinated brethren.
Evidently, attacking adenosine in two ways rather than one does lead to more alert individuals. While it might be difficult to time a coffee nap properly, there’s no question that there are benefits to giving it a try.
So, how do I take a coffee nap?
As I’ve hinted at earlier, it’s all about the timing. Even if caffeine makes you jittery and you’re leery of being able to nap at all after ingesting it, science has proven that coffee naps work when done correctly. You’ve got a decent fifteen to twenty minute window to work with here, and on top of that, you don’t even have to nap well for it to work. In one of the studies I cited earlier, coffee nap subjects who “half-slept” after drinking their coffee still received the same benefits as those who dozed off completely.
Anyways, the directions for taking a coffee nap are pretty simple. For one, it doesn’t have to be coffee; anything with caffeine will do. Though in my opinion, coffee is superior to tea, soda, and energy drinks, and it contains way more caffeine to boot.
Next is probably the most important step: you need to drink it fast. This is a problem for me since I usually dawdle and take my time daintily sipping my coffee in the morning. For a coffee nap, you have to mean business. That means chugging the contents of your mug in a minute, maybe less.
Once you’ve got it all down, the clock is ticking. You now have approximately twenty minutes to find a comfortable position and try your darnedest to fall into a nice state of nap-sleep. Remember to set an alarm or something, because dozing off for too long will ruin everything.
After your alarm goes off (or your co-worker slaps you awake), you should be good to go. Your brain will be prepped and ready to deal with the next several hours of drudgery! Huzzah!
Happy coffee napping. Let me know how this worked for you in the comments below!
Featured photo credit: Coffee_Grains_8314 (3).JPG/ MorgueFile via mrg.bz