Coffee Naps: What Are They, Do They Work?

Coffee Naps: What Are They, Do They Work?


What is a Coffee Nap?

Many of us drink coffee or caffeinated beverages and take naps as a way to gain more energy. None of us are immune to the mid-afternoon slump that strikes around 3:00pm. One trend that has arisen to combat this slump is the "coffee nap," which involves drinking coffee before taking a short nap in an effort to boost overall energy. Maybe that sounds a little counterintuitive to you. Let's get into the science behind the coffee nap and why it just may work.

How Coffee Naps Work

Adenosine is a chemical in the body that is partially responsible for making us feel tired. Caffeine works by binding with adenosine receptors in the brain, thereby blocking the adenosine from binding and preventing you from feeling sleepy. The thought behind the coffee nap is that combining caffeine, which blocks adenosine from binding with the receptors, with sleep, which naturally decreases the amount of adenosine floating around in the body, will result in an increase of energy. It is thought that the combination of sleep and caffeine may promote more energy than just sleep or caffeine alone, but certain guidelines should be adhered to in an effort to make sure the coffee nap has the desired effect.

Guidelines for Coffee Naps

The secret to effective coffee naps is all in the timing. It may seem counterintuitive to combine caffeine with sleep since caffeine can negatively effect sleep, but coffee naps work in the timing in between caffeine consumption and caffeine hitting the bloodstream. Science has shown that short 15 to 20 minute naps, or naps that do not exceed 30 minutes are generally best for energy boost and preventing overall sleep health being affected. For a successful coffee nap, caffeine should be consumed right before settling in for a short nap. Caffeine should not be consumed six hours before bedtime in an effort to preserve sleep quality and timing, so coffee naps should occur before this window, ideally.

Additionally, the amount of caffeine consumed for a coffee nap matters. Ideally, 200 mg of caffeine, or the equivalent of about two cups of coffee, is the recommended amount of caffeine, as more caffeine up to 400 mg has been shown to decrease sleep quality into the night. While many of us may prefer sugary caffeinated beverages such as soda or sweetened coffee, black coffee is a healthier option because the sugar (whether real or artiifical) will not disrupt the energy boost you're looking for.

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Do Coffee Naps Work?

While this all sounds great, you may be wondering whether or not coffee naps work as an effective way to boost energy during the day. Preliminary research has shown coffee naps to be effective in boosting energy, though these studies have been with small groups of adults and have used caffeine administered in pill form versus as a caffeinated beverage. Some research has shown that coffee naps can be successful even if individuals do not fully fall asleep.

The bottom line is that research is limited but overall supportive for the incorporation of caffeine in combination with short periods of sleep to boost energy. Feel free to try this new trend and see what you think - it will not harm you as long as you are mindful of your caffeine consumption timing and amount.

Updated: 09/13/2019