JACKSONVILLE, FLA. - Have you ever heard of a coffee nap? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. You drink a cup of coffee before taking a short nap and it’s supposed to make you feel more alert than the two elements separately. But does it work?
We are looking to verify if a coffee nap is better than just a cup of Joe.
We spoke with Dr. Raymond Pumarejo who works at St. Vincent’s Lung Sleep and Critical Care department. We also looked at a study out of the United Kingdom from 1997. It calculated the effectiveness of combining caffeine and a short nap for drowsy drivers.
First, what makes us sleepy? “Adenosine is a product, by-product of brain activity, that is the messenger that tells the brain that you should be sleepy and you need to rest,” Dr. Pumarejo said.
During the day, the compound builds up in the brain, making our eyelids start to droop. Sleep clears this compound and so does caffeine... so a coffee nap seems to do double duty.
“You are depleting some of the adenosine that should have been there prior to the nap and allowing the coffee to be more effecting in stimulating alertness,” Dr. Pumarejo said. “That’s why the combination of the nap followed by coffee that you ingested 20 minutes prior makes sense that it would give you more alertness and increase performance.”
So, drink that cup of Joe and lay right down. The caffeine needs about 20 minutes to kick in, so the nap clears some of the sleep compound, leaving room for caffeine to be extra effective.
One thing you must make sure of is that the nap is short: About 20 minutes. After that, Dr. Pumarejo says you can become even more tired.
“Anything that starts getting into longer periods of sleep potentially you could wake up from a deeper form of sleep and when you do that you end up being fairly sleepy afterward," he said.
That’s called sleep inertia and you wouldn’t be very alert afterward.
But how much caffeine is too much when I want to make sure I have a good night’s sleep?
According to Dr. Pumarejo, “There are some individuals that are not sensitive to caffeine and they can actually have coffee right before they go to sleep but many individuals are very sensitive and if they drink coffee within six hours of bedtime it could cause some insomnia and difficulty falling asleep.”
We can verify that coffee naps are effective and the combination of coffee and a nap will make you feel more alert.