The most productive mornings are often followed by a midday crash. Some folks rely on caffeine to overcome the afternoon energy lull, while others sneak off for a quick post-lunch siesta.
What if we told you a back-to-back shot of coffee and Z’s could cure your midafternoon exhaustion? Rather than fighting to keep your eyes open, you’d have plenty of energy and focus to make it through your day.
Coffee naps are increasing in popularity—and for good reason! There’s plenty of scientific research to back up what devoted coffee nappers have known all along.
Why Coffee Naps Work
Afternoon sleepiness is completely normal, thanks to two faithful body systems constantly working behind the scenes to ensure we get enough rest. Sleep/wake homeostasis and the circadian biological clock are on duty 24/7, so it makes sense that our energy ebbs and flows throughout the day.
When our bodies need to recharge, the brain produces a sleep-promoting chemical compound called adenosine. Caffeine prevents this naturally-occurring chemical from attaching to the brain’s receptors. So when you drink a cup of joe, you’re essentially tricking your brain into believing you’re wide awake.
You might be wondering why napping is necessary since coffee is so effective. Since sleep is what your body is craving when you notice that afternoon crash, a 20-minute nap will give the caffeine time to make its way into the bloodstream; plus, you’ll reap all of the benefits of a midday nap.
Choose Your Caffeine Wisely
While it may be tempting to grab a can of soda from the closest vending machine, it’s important to remember that all caffeinated beverages are not created equal. Brewed coffee has 95 – 165mg of caffeine, according to the Mayo Clinic. Cola, on the other hand, contains a mere 24 – 46mg.
If you prefer to upgrade your java to a latte or café mocha, keep in mind that these beverages contain less caffeine than a traditional cup of coffee—only 63 to 126mg. Even espresso might not do the job; one shot contains only 47 to 64mg. You’d need a minimum of two shots to give you an after-nap kick.
Instant coffee won’t necessarily perk you up, either. With only 63mg of caffeine, it comes in way below the brewed variety.
Tea drinkers will be disappointed to learn that an 8oz cup of black tea contains only 25 to 48mg of caffeine. Green tea comes in even lower at 25 to 29mg. Unfortunately, tea naps are not the way to go for an afternoon pick-me-up.
And energy drinks aren’t preferable, thanks to their high sugar content. These drinks contain up to 124mg of caffeine, but the added sugars will take you from your mid-afternoon nap to a late-afternoon crash.
Note: Researchers have found that 200mg is the optimal amount of caffeine for a coffee nap, so choose an oversized mug for the best results.
Coffee Nap Tips
Aspiring coffee nappers might think that scoring the perfect coffee nap is a super-simple, two-step process. It is… we promise! But here are some tips to make it even better:
- Back to the Basics: To maximize your coffee nap experience, opt for brewed coffee with minimal add-ins.
- Drink Up: Refrain from gulping, but drink your java within a 5-minute timeframe to ensure you’ll have time to snooze before the caffeine makes its way through the bloodstream and to your brain.
- Be Prepared: Pack a bag with naptime essentials, such as a travel pillow, eye mask, and earplugs.
- Find a Quiet Spot: Comfort is important when napping, especially when you have limited time. Find a discreet, quiet place to doze, and if necessary, let coworkers know that you’ll be unavailable. If possible, eat early and snooze while others are out to lunch, or escape to your car if you’re parked in a safe place.
- Power Down: Avoid digital devices altogether when preparing for your nap. If you must leave your phone on, switch it to airplane mode.
- Set an Alarm: Don’t snooze for longer than 15 to 20 minutes, as you don’t want to fall into a deep slumber. A prolonged coffee nap could leave you feeling out of sorts and groggy.
- Snooze Early: Avoid taking a coffee nap in the late afternoon to ensure you’ll sleep at night.
- Stress Less: Can’t fall asleep? Simply close your eyes and rest. Even non-sleeping dozers will feel the coffee nap benefits.
- Need more tips? Pillow Picker has created a comprehensive naptime to-do list to help you nod off and ensure you’ll wake up ready to tackle the afternoon.
In addition to waking up feeling rested, coffee naps have been proven to be beneficial in the following ways:
- Increased Alertness: A study of 12 tired drivers found that 200mg (about 18oz.) of caffeine reduced tiredness and driving incidents, and increased drivers’ alertness.
- A Boost in Productivity: Coffee naps lead to more productive afternoons, as opposed to napping only, post-nap face washing, or exposure to light after snoozing, according to research. Tip: More tired than usual? Try a coffee nap, then splash your face with water, and walk outside in the sunshine.
- All the Benefits of Napping—Supercharged: If you’re still not convinced that a coffee nap is for you, keep in mind that you’ll also benefit from traditional nap perks, such as better focus, a decrease in chronic illness and anxiety, along with a boost in mood and creativity, among many others.
We’d be remiss not to mention the downside of drinking coffee before napping. For some, coffee causes restlessness and jitters, stomach issues, and an increase in heart rate. For many folks, however, the pros outweigh the cons.
Why Not Give It a Try?
The best way to determine how a coffee nap will affect you is to give it a shot! Conduct your own experiment by recording your post-lunch sleepiness, alertness, and productivity on non-napping days compared to coffee nap days. You might be hooked from day one, or you may need to tweak your nap time and/or duration, amount of caffeine, and location for maximum results.