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For true power, take a caffeine nap

by Mark Miller September 15, 2017

For true power, take a caffeine nap

Power serve or power nap? Benoit Carine rests at Wimbledon. (Carine06 photo/Creative Commons)

Coffee naps are a thing. If you take caffeine before you snooze in the afternoon or whenever, when you wake up you'll feel less groggy, experts say.

The effect comes by getting the benefit of the sleep, plus when you wake up the benefit of the caffeine. Both caffeine and sleep alleviate tiredness, so the double whammy works well together.

Huffington Post explained the phenomenon in a 2014 article:

What explains the power of the coffee nap? It all boils down to body chemistry — specifically, to the competing effects of caffeine and adenosine, a drowsiness-inducing chemical compound that accumulates in your brain when you're awake and dissipates as you sleep.

Caffeine's alertness-boosting effect typically peaks about 30 minutes after the stimulant is consumed. So by sleeping for 20 or so minutes of those 30, you can reduce the amount of adenosine the caffeine has to compete with. And voila, the caffeine has a greater effect.

It's one thing to get drowsy at your desk if you're lucky enough to have a desk job. It's another problem entirely if you're driving somewhere and you get drowsy. Loughborough University in Britain did a study and found caffeine napping is great for people who are on the road and have trouble staying awake.

 

The Loughborough University School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences released a press releasing stating:

Falling asleep is always preceded by a period of increasing sleepiness, which drivers are quite aware of, to the extent that will do things to keep themselves awake (opening window, turning up the radio, stretching etc.), but continue to drive rather than 'take a break'. Why do they fail to heed these warnings, believing they won't actually fall asleep and are 'safe' to drive? Young men are the most likely persons to do this, even when they are struggling to stay awake.

The researchers at Longborough University found that no other common measures to combat drowsiness while driving, such as cold air, napping without caffeine, caffeine without napping or a break without a nap, worked as well as caffeine naps in helping combat drowsiness.

In the 1990s, the Loughborough researchers measured brain waves of subjects in driving simulators. The caffeine nap worked better than anything at eliminating mid-afternoon drowsiness and preventing driving errors than in all of the other controlled groups they studied.

They found sleep apnea and even low levels of alcohol in the bloodstream greatly increase the chance of people falling asleep at the wheel.

The press release states:

Sleepy drivers should stop driving and take a 30 minute break at a safe place. We have shown (now recommended in the Highway Code) that a caffeinated drink immediately followed by a short nap before the caffeine kicks in, make an ideal combination for combating moderate sleepiness. Despite advertising claims, some caffeine products are much better and others in this respect, and drinks with a very high sugar content can worsen sleepiness. We are assessing these products and claims.

Another study, this one from Japan, found that people who took caffeine naps performed significantly better than those who had not had one. That study also found that the caffeine nap worked better than a nap alone, a nap and washing of the face or having bright lights shone into the eyes. They were asked if they felt less tired, and they said yes, though this was a subjective measure.

Vox.com reports on still another study:

Interestingly, there's even some evidence that caffeine naps can help people go for relatively long periods without proper sleep. As part of  one study, 24 young men went without proper sleep for a 24-hour period, taking only short naps. Twelve of them, who were given just a placebo, performed markedly worse on a series of cognition tests, compared with their baseline scores. Twelve others, who had caffeine before their naps, managed scores roughly the same as their baselines for the entire day.

Jeff Mann, the founder and editor of SleepJunkies.com, explains the best way to take a coffee nap in this article. He says there are four main steps. If you don't like coffee, take a caffeine supplement.

The steps are:

  1. Find a good place to nap. If you're at work, go in a room that is little used, where you can turn the lights down, one away from the noise and bustle of your co-workers. He says you could use an eye mask and earplugs, too.
  2. Mann says coffee is ideal, but caffeine supplements are good. Coke and Pepsi are not as good because they don't have enough caffeine and the sugar may give you a sugar and carbohydrate rush. Scientists recommend a dose of 200 mg of caffeine.
  3. Set your alarm to awaken you around 15 to 20 minutes after falling asleep. It's important to wake up before entering a deep sleep. Slow-wave sleep patterns of deeper sleep can make a person groggy after they wake up. Another point is that you want awaken before the caffeine takes effect.
  4. Now take your nap, without delay.

Some people leaving messages on Reddit say a coffee nap would not work for them, for various reasons.

Bitcoinoperatedgirl says:

When I drink a cup of coffee I can feel initial effects in a matter of minutes. I really don't see how I could sleep after drinking coffee. I wouldn't even have time to fall asleep before my heartbeat became elevated.

Pseupseudio responds:

same. i've never understood the coffee nap concept. i have a difficult enough time achieving a regular nap - but i have known a number of people who take adderal naps and swear by them.

Monsieurpommesfrites writes in the same thread:

I wonder how this will work.
These days coffee PUTS ME TO SLEEP.
As a result of conditioning or I don't know what.

Someone with the name redacted responded:

It's weird. I kind of have this too. I alternate between drinking strong coffee or taking caffeine/L-theanine pills at work. It seems like sometimes (maybe about 25%-30% of the time) they make me even sleepier. I have a strong feeling that it depends upon the time of day, or my current alertness. But I know what you mean, sometimes I do feel more tired if I take caffeine.

So if you can find a place to take a quiet nap, try it out. The only thing you have to lose is little sleep.

Mark Miller
Mark Miller


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