The workday is not quite over and the clock strikes 3:00 pm. You have hit that wall and are longing for a wonderful daytime nap.
A mid-day siesta is embraced by many cultures but in the United States we feel that we can not afford that couple of hours of downtime in the afternoon. Also, sleep inertia, which can happen if you nap for too long, takes a while to shake off.
However “power naps” are much more accepted and common in today’s society. (For example, powerhouses like Google, Uber, Home Away and Ben & Jerry’s have dedicated nap spaces for their employees.)
What Are the Benefits of the Power Nap?
It is scientifically proven that a 20 minute afternoon nap increases cognitive capabilities, memory and alertness. Listed below are several of the studies:
- A University of Michigan study found that participants who took a power nap were able to handle frustration better and were less impulsive than those who watched an hour long nature documentary instead of sleeping.
- A NASA study found that tired astronauts, after taking a short power nap, had improved alertness by 100%.
- The National Sleep Foundation reports that power naps can enhance performance, restore alertness and reduce accidents and mistakes.
With this said, we know that many of us love the power nap, which is an excellent way to restore our body and revitalize our mind. But what if I told you there is an even better way to enhance alertness and maximize your sleep time!
The “Coffee Nap”
Can you believe that drinking a cup of coffee before heading to sleep actually makes you more refreshed and invigorated than coffee or a nap by itself! It’s been scientifically proven that drinking a cup of coffee, followed by a 20 minute nap restores your mental alertness!
Adenosine is a chemical compound in your brain that causes drowsiness and clouds your mind, making you fuzzy. The nap, on its own erodes your brain of this adenosine so a nice 20 minute nap clears those fuzzy cobwebs from your head making you more alert.
The Coffee Plus Nap Effect
What happens is that right about the time you wake up from your nap with your brain cleansed of adenosine, the caffeine kicks in giving you that big boost of energy.
The coffee would not be as effective delivering that jolt of energy and focus without the nap because it would have to compete with the adenosine. After a restorative nap, however, which wipes out the adenosine, the caffeine hits your “cleansed” brain receptors like an 18 wheeler!
Why Do Caffeine Naps Work So Well?
When scientists observed the cognitive and behavioral effectiveness of the coffee nap, they found that it’s more productive than coffee or naps by themselves.
- One of the first studies looking at the positive effects of the coffee nap was conducted by the University of Britain at Loughborough. Sleep researchers gave a driving test to several fatigued drivers and found that after a 15 minute coffee nap, they made fewer mistakes than those who only took a nap or only drank coffee.
- In another study, 24 young men went without adequate sleep for 24 hours. Half took coffee naps and took a series of cognitive tests, performing significantly better than the half who napped without taking caffeine beforehand.
- In another study in Japan, researchers found that those who took a caffeine nap before taking a series of memory tests performed better than those who just took a nap or took a coffee and afterwards had a bright light shined in their eyes or washed their faces.
How To Take a Coffee Nap?
- Drink a cup of coffee.
- Drink it when your body is ready to go to sleep.
- Drink the coffee quickly. This is to give the caffeine a long window to pass through the gastrointestinal tract and bloodstream.
- Lie down in a dark, cool place so you can fall asleep. If needed, use earplugs and a sleep mask.
- Don’t stress if you don’t fall asleep easily. Relaxing half naps are just as helpful.
- Only nap for 15-20 minutes, so as not enter a deep sleep mode. If needed, set an alarm.