Hitting the Refresh Button: The Caffeine Nap

It might sound counter-intuitive at first, but there really is such a thing as a caffeine nap. “Don’t you drink coffee to stop you from sleeping?”, I hear you ask. Don’t brush this idea off just yet, however, as there’s plenty of scientific research to support this strategy for recharging and re-energising yourself through the day.

In our modern, 24-hour society, few of us really get as much sleep as we’d like to. Traffic outside the window, worrying about that office meeting tomorrow, scared you’ll snooze through the alarm. The list goes on and on. When you’re low on fuel, and need a bit of a boost, a caffeine nap might be just what you need.

The idea of caffeine, or coffee, napping was first studied in details by a group of British scientists at Loughborough University. Their goal was to look into effective ways to tackle driver sleepiness, something many of us are familiar with. The scientists looked at various ways to keep focused whilst driving while tired, and there results showed that a caffeine nap was far more effective in tackling tiredness behind the wheel than simply napping without caffeine, or just drinking caffeine without taking a short nap. In fact, it boosted driving performance, and those who took a caffeine nap demonstrated almost no afternoon drowsiness, which were observed in the other groups.

So, why does it work so well? Drinking an espresso doesn’t instantly give you a magical power boost, despite what some may think. It takes approximately twenty minutes for the effects of caffeine to begin to have an effect on the body. The idea of taking a caffeine nap is to drink a coffee, and then take a short nap prior to the effects of the caffeine kicking in. Timed properly, the caffeine will begin ‘working’ just as you waken.

When is the best time to use this strategy, you may be asking. Well, first thing in the morning is probably not a good idea, as you’re likely to have just had a few hour’s sleep. And late in the evening might not be wise if you’re planning on having a solid night’s sleep. Try and get eight hour’s sleep if you’ve just woken up from a caffeine nap! Therefore, the best use of this tactic is to use it to combat the mid-afternoon slump. Whether you’re in the office and need the extra boost to finish that project on time, or if you’re driving back home, it’s a great – and scientifically proven – method for giving yourself a recharge in minutes.

Some of you may struggle to nap during the day, especially if you’re not used to it. Find yourself a comfortable seat, or ideally place to lay down, with a low level of light. The quieter the area you can find, the better. Some people find that putting in a pair of earphones without playing any audio can help lower the noise levels around you. Get yourself a nice, fresh coffee (fizzy drinks such as Coke won’t have enough caffeine), and set your alarm for roughly 20 minutes later. It’s essential that you set an alarm, or have somebody wake you up, to prevent you from dozing off into a deep sleep, which is likely to leave you feeling groggy and even more tired when you wake back up.

Once you’re set, it’s time to relax and nod off until the alarm goes off. If you’ve timed it right, the caffeine will begin working as a stimulant just as you’re body is waking back up. After a couple of minutes, you’ll feel more refreshed and full of energy than ever!