The Coffee Nap Explained – Why It Works and How To Do It Right
A coffee nap is a short, 20-minute nap immediately following the drinking of a cup of coffee, or about 200 mg of caffeine. The caffeine’s wakefulness-promoting effects don’t set in right away, allowing you to fall asleep and wake up to an energy boost from both the coffee and the nap.
- A coffee nap is a short rest taken directly after consuming a cup of coffee.
- Caffeine takes about 20 minutes to kick in, so if you nap for 20 minutes after drinking it, you should wake up with more energy
- Studies have shown that coffee naps can improve physical and mental performance as well as mood
Did you know?
One cup of coffee has about the same amount of caffeine as three cups of black tea, so if you prefer the leafy stuff, consider mate which has a caffeine content similar to coffee.
Dealing with a mid-afternoon dip in energy? Looking for a solution that’s time efficient and will also boost your productivity? If that’s you, a coffee nap might be just what the doctor ordered.
As part of our natural circadian rhythms, the middle of the day can often be a struggle to get through. Unfortunately, that’s also just when many of us need to be at our best, whether it’s for work or family.
One way to work around this is with coffee and a short nap. The combination could be just the thing to get you on your feet.
What Is a Coffee Nap?
The coffee nap craze has picked up steam over the last few years, but it’s been around for a while. Studies started in the 90s with a look at how it can benefit long-haul truckers, in particular.
So what is a coffee nap? It’s exactly what it sounds like – a cup of coffee followed by a quick snooze. The idea behind it is that doing them one after another leads to more of a boost to energy levels than either one on its own.
The science tends to back this up.
How Drinking Coffee Before a Nap Can Be Beneficial
It’s no secret that coffee is a great pick-me-up. And the star ingredient responsible for that boost to energy levels is the psychoactive drug caffeine.
It’s known as an adenosine receptor antagonist, which is a fancy way of saying that it prevents adenosine – a naturally occurring neurotransmitter – from making us sleepy. This adenosine also interacts with our circadian rhythm, building up throughout the day and making us drowsy.
One of those drowsy points comes in the mid-afternoon, which is where the coffee power nap comes in. After drinking coffee, it normally takes at least 15 minutes for the caffeine to start working. That leaves enough time to fall asleep and wake up after 20 minutes, which is the ideal nap time.
These coffee naps and their effect on adenosine can give a boost to many areas:
- Athletic performance
- Reaction time
Coffee Nap vs Power Nap – What’s the Difference?
You might be wondering why go to all the trouble of timing your nap with such a short window of opportunity before the caffeine sinks in. It can seem like a lot of fuss, after all. Fortunately, several studies have examined performance in different settings after taking a coffee nap versus a regular power nap.
Coffee Naps in Athletic Settings
One study from 2021 in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance looked at the sprinting performance of athletes under various conditions including post-20 minute nap, post caffeine, and post-20 minute coffee nap.
They found that, “For sleep-deprived athletes, caffeine before a short nap opportunity would be more beneficial for repeated sprint performance than each treatment alone.”
A coffee nap can improve physical performance, but the mental benefits may be even more powerful.
A 1994 study in Ergonomics examined the performance of 24 sleep deprived patients on performance tests like addition problems and logical reasoning. It found that, “The combination of nap and caffeine was able to maintain alertness and performance at very close to baseline levels throughout a 24 hour period without sleep.”
Wakefulness and Mood Improvement
It’s no secret that caffeine can improve mood. Just think about all of the zombies walking around the office that suddenly perk up after their morning brew. And studies have shown that combining that coffee with a nap can have the same effect with benefits to wakefulness added in.
A 1997 study on drivers also looked at the benefits of a coffee power nap, finding that the mid-afternoon peak in driving accidents can be eliminated by combining the two.
Other Caffeine Substitutes
Not a coffee person? You have other options, drawing from some of the following:
- Espresso nap
- Energy drink nap
- Yerba mate nap
- Potentially tea naps depending on your caffeine tolerance
Most studies done on the subject use 100-200 mg of caffeine, which is roughly a cup of coffee. However, as long as you consume enough to match your personal tolerance levels, each option on the above list falls under the stimulant nap umbrella. For caffeine lovers, tea might not give quite the same benefits, but for others it could be just right.
Energy drinks are more complicated because of the amount of added sugar and extra ingredients. Some people may find that it’s bad to sleep after drinking energy drinks while others may love the combination.
How To Take a Caffeine Nap
Ready to take the plunge? Here’s how you can set yourself up for success when trying a caffeine nap out:
- Nap at the right time. We all have a natural circadian rhythm that leads to droopy eyelids in many around mid-afternoon. Plan to nap some time around then.
- Get the right amount of caffeine. You can play around with this, but the most studied protocol is 100-200 mg of caffeine, or a cup of coffee.
- Sleep quickly and set your alarm. Sleeping for too long means deeper stages of sleep, and coming out can lead to a sleep hangover, so set your alarm for about 20 minutes of sleep. If you have trouble getting to sleep right away, consider our Cotton Napper weighted blanket as it may help lull you to sleep, quicker.
- Monitor results. Caffeine stays in the system for about 8 hours, so a coffee nap could give you troubles at night. If it does, you may want to keep it in your holster only for special occasions where you need to be alert.
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Is Coffee Before Bed Good or Bad?
One word of caution when trying out the “coffee plus sleep” equation: It’s not meant for a full night of sleep. The reason for this is that coffee can wake you up in the middle of the night once it kicks in and starts blocking adenosine. This timing works well for short naps but not so much at night when you need quality rest.
Because of that, sleeping after drinking coffee is not advised. If you’re one of the rare people wondering, “Why does coffee put me to sleep?”, it may be for one of several reasons, but it’s unlikely that caffeine before sleep is helping you get quality shut-eye.
If you do decide to drink coffee and go to sleep, make sure it’s for a short nap of about 20 minutes.
Why Doesn’t Coffee Wake Me Up?
Why coffee doesn’t wake you up could be for one of many reasons, but there’s a good chance that lifestyle factors are at play. For starters, if you consume a lot of caffeine, you may have developed a tolerance to caffeine. It’s also possible that you’re so sleep deprived that even caffeine can’t make up for the shortage.
Unfortunately, the idea that coffee helps sleep is the opposite from the truth, so if it’s starting to feel like a potential sleep aid, you may want to take stock of your sleep routine.
Will Coffee Before Night Sleep Work Like a Coffee Nap?
Coffee before night sleep will not work like a coffee nap because the caffeine will start to activate in your body as you’re transitioning into deeper sleep. Some people will wake up wide-eyed and alert almost immediately while others may have shallow or interrupted sleep cycles.
Caffeine stays in the system for about 8 hours on average, so drinking it before bed is likely to be the worst timing possible. It will damage your sleep and wear off right when you’re supposed to wake up.
The coffee nap is a great way to get an extra boost of energy during the mid-afternoon doldrums that many people face. Just drink a cup of coffee and head straight to bed for a short, 20-minute nap and you’ll hopefully be bouncing with energy rather than flat lining.
For an added bonus, snuggle up under a Cotton Napper. It could help you fall asleep for that nap faster and leave you feeling safe and secure when you wake up.