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Here's How To Take The Best Nap Of Your Life

Coffee and sleep: together at last.

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Coffee, obviously, is an elixir brewed in the kitchen of heaven. And sleep is a gift bestowed on us by the creator himself.

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And although the two are both life-giving and magical, what's sad is that unlike chocolate and peanut butter or movies and popcorn, they don't really go together.

OR DO THEY?

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Obviously drinking coffee boosts your alertness and energy, which is why you shouldn't drink it too close to your bedtime. But research seems to indicate that if you time it properly, drinking coffee right before lying down for a 20-ish minute nap can provide you with more energy than either a nap or coffee on its own.

One study found that drinking about 150 mg of caffeine (the amount of caffeine in about two shots of espresso or a short coffee from Starbucks) before taking a 15-minute nap reduced (and sometimes eliminated) sleepiness in drivers more effectively than just a nap or the caffeine. In another small study, a coffee nap was the most effective of five different interventions when it came to reducing sleepiness and enhancing performance on post-nap computer tasks.

Once you know how caffeine and sleep work individually, coffee naps actually make a lot of sense.

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Sleeping clears our brains from adenosine, a byproduct of brain cells' activity that builds up throughout the day and makes us feel sleepy, Dr. Sanjeev Kothare, professor of neurology and director of the pediatric sleep program at NYU Langone Medical Center, tells BuzzFeed Health. You feel alert after a good sleep because this brain wash (sorry) has cleared adenosine.

And then there's coffee, which, Kothare explains, has its own relationship with adenosine. Caffeine is an adenosine antagonist, handily fitting into the brain's adenosine receptors, blocking the adenosine from getting in there and, at least temporarily, preventing us from feeling droopy and tired.

So, the idea behind the coffee nap is that it combines coffee's adenosine blocking with sleep's adenosine clearing.

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Basically the deal is that when you drink coffee, it takes about 20 minutes for the caffeine to reach your brain and kick in, registered dietitian Brian St. Pierre, director of performance nutrition at Precision Nutrition tells BuzzFeed Health.

This means that if you take a 20-minute power nap right after you drink the coffee, you'll be waking up just as the caffeine kicks in, and because adenosine has been cleared by the nap, the caffeine doesn't even have to compete to get into those receptors. This might provide what Kothare calls a "double boost." But he says that the idea behind coffee naps is, at the moment, a hypothesis based on what we know about the brain's response to caffeine, sleep, and adenosine, rather than something that's been directly observed in a lab setting.

That said, St. Pierre says that "According to anecdotal and theoretical evidence, it seems like [coffee naps] could be more beneficial" than a nap or coffee alone.

If you're convinced, intrigued, or just desperate, here's how to execute a proper coffee nap.

1. Plan your coffee nap for early afternoon.

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Caffeine's half-life is about 8 to 10 hours, says Kothare, which means that if you drink coffee at 3 or 4 p.m., you could still be feeling its effects until well after midnight. Of course it all depends on your bedtime, but most people should probably try to take their coffee nap no later than 2 p.m., says St. Pierre.

2. Get the caffeine dose right.

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Drinking one cup (which means eight ounces, not a 32-ounce "cup") of coffee is the amount generally needed to impact your energy and alertness, says St. Pierre. But some people might need a little less or more — everyone tolerates and metabolizes caffeine differently, so you might have to play around with the amount to find what works for you.

If you don't usually have an afternoon coffee, definitely consider how the extra cup will fit into your overall daily caffeine intake. According to the US Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, three to five cups of coffee per day isn't thought to cause harm to healthy adults; it's also associated with health benefits, like reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and Parkinson's disease. On the other hand, too much caffeine can make you feel terrible — jittery, restless, irritable, etc.

3. Consider drinking espresso instead of brewed coffee.

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Let's say you take about 20 minutes to sip your mug of hot coffee. Now you're settling in for your nap as the caffeine is starting to kick in. Plus, IDK about you but in my experience falling asleep with a bladder full of coffee is a total nonstarter.

That's why the best way to get your pre-nap coffee is to have a couple shots of espresso, says St. Pierre. It's just way less liquid to get through before you can start your nap. If espresso isn't available, consider iced coffee, which at least lets you get it down faster.

4. Nap for no more than 20 minutes.

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When it comes to the afternoon power nap, you really want to wake up before your body goes into deep sleep.

Basically, sleep happens in cycles and each cycle has five stages. During the first couple stages you're basically starting the transition from being awake to light sleep. If you sleep for too long you'll be trying to wake up once stages three or four have started, which means you'll wake up feeling groggy and disoriented, rather than refreshed and alert. If your nap is about 20 minutes, it should be long enough to get you at least five minutes of stage two sleep — the minimum amount Kothare recommends for afternoon naps — but not long enough that you'll fall into deep sleep.

5. Even if a full-on nap isn't feasible, all hope is not lost.

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I get it: A private place for a midday lie-down is hard to come by. So, if it's not possible for you to sleep in the middle of the day, you still have an option, says St. Pierre. Perhaps coffee or espresso followed by sitting quietly with your eyes closed while you breathe slowly and try to get extremely chill would provide a refreshing reboot akin to what a coffee nap provides. "Even if physiologically it's not the same as a coffee nap, psychologically it might be," says St. Pierre.

  1. So, think you'll try a coffee nap?

    Nah, sounds like too much effort.
    No, but I think I'll try a coffee rest.
    No, but I will try an early afternoon power nap.
    Yeah, sounds promising.
    Any reason to drink more coffee and sleep in the middle of the day is worth trying.
    I already take coffee naps!

Here's How To Take The Best Nap Of Your Life

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So, think you'll try a coffee nap?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Nah, sounds like too much effort.
  2.  
    vote votes
    No, but I think I'll try a coffee rest.
  3.  
    vote votes
    No, but I will try an early afternoon power nap.
  4.  
    vote votes
    Yeah, sounds promising.
  5.  
    vote votes
    Any reason to drink more coffee and sleep in the middle of the day is worth trying.
  6.  
    vote votes
    I already take coffee naps!

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