Coffee and sleep are two things that are easily associated by many. They’re what most folks believe to be polar opposites, as a lot of people drink coffee to stay awake and avoid the need for sleep for a longer period of time.
If you’re one of the many people who like to rely on a caffeine boost whenever you start to feel sluggish in the middle of the day, you may like to know that there are ways how you can make your coffee more effective in keeping you alert and awake. While it may be a bit weird, experts say that coffee can be more effective if it’s followed by a nap.
Yes, you’ve read that right: coffee can be more effective if it’s followed by a nap. Called a caffeine nap or a coffee nap, it makes use of the power of some shuteye to help reduce the amount of adenosine in your system, which is basically the compound that makes you feel sleepy and tired, and replace it with the caffeine in your coffee, which can keep you more alert.
To give you a better idea how coffee naps work, a Vox article breaks it down for us:
To understand a coffee nap, you have to understand how caffeine affects you. After it’s absorbed through your small intestine and passes into your bloodstream, it crosses into your brain. There, it fits into receptors that are normally filled by a similarly-shaped molecule, called adenosine.
Adenosine is a byproduct of brain activity, and when it accumulates at high enough levels, it plugs into these receptors and makes you feel tired. But with the caffeine blocking the receptors, it’s unable to do so. As Stephen R. Braun writes in Buzz: the Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine, it’s like “putting a block of wood under one of the brain’s primary brake pedals.”
Now, caffeine doesn’t block every single adenosine receptor — it competes with adenosine for these spots, filling some, but not others.
But here’s the trick of the coffee nap: sleeping naturally clears adenosine from the brain. If you nap for longer than 15 or 20 minutes, your brain is more likely to enter deeper stages of sleepthat take some time to recover from. But shorter naps generally don’t lead to this so-called “sleep inertia” — and it takes around 20 minutes for the caffeine to get through your gastrointestinal tract and bloodstream anyway.
So if you nap for those 20 minutes, you’ll reduce your levels of adenosine just in time for the caffeine to kick in. The caffeine will have less adenosine to compete with, and will thereby be even more effective in making you alert.
So, basically, when you drink a cup of coffee, you intake a good amount of caffeine that will activate a few minutes later and give you the alertness you so want and need. But since you’re tired and sleepy, it’s highly likely that your system is filled with adenosine, which competes with the coffee in keeping you awake. By taking a nap right after you down your cup of coffee, you get to cut down the amount of adenosine as much as possible and even get a quick rest before the caffeine kicks in 20 to 30 minutes later. This way, you get to enjoy both the benefits of coffee and a cat nap and get as alert as you can be despite the lack of sleep.
Photo by Hannah Lemholt
If you’re confused as how to take a caffeine nap, here’s a step by step guide with tips to help you out:
1. Once you’re already starting to feel sluggish, map out at least half an hour to take a break for your coffee nap.
2. Grab a cup of coffee and consume it in one go. It doesn’t matter if it’s hold, cold, or iced, as long as you can consume it quickly. This is an important step, as you’ll need to take the caffeine in immediately so you can have more time for your nap and so the caffeine will kick in one go after you take the nap.
3.Set an alarm for 15-20 minutes later. Snoozing longer will get you into the deeper stages of sleep and may cause more sluggishness instead of alertness, so make sure to limit your nap.
4. Try to doze off immediately after you finish your cup. Remember to try to nap right after your drink, so the caffeine wouldn’t take hold yet and you can still get to nod off without any difficulties. If you’re worried you can’t fall asleep right away, experts say that even getting half-asleep can be very helpful.
5. Wake up refreshed and alert.
The next time you need to perk up, maximize your chances and take a caffeine nap. Just remember to execute it properly, though, so you can get the most out of your sleep and caffeine fix.