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Science Says 'Coffee Naps' Are Better Than Non-Caffeinated Ones

Haven’t heard of a coffee nap? Say hello to an evidence-backed tool that can help you be more productive and sleep more.
Image: Caffeinated naps are better than a cup of coffee or a nap alone.
Fire up the grinder. Caffeinated naps are better than a cup of coffee or a nap alone.John Brecher

Despite our best intentions, some days result in nothing getting done. We’ve all had them ― productivity levels are at rock bottom, the desire to sleep is overwhelming and minutes feel like hours.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a working professional, it’s in your best interest to find ways to be more productive. You’ll get more off your plate and feel a sense of accomplishment and pride. But what steps can you take to actually be more productive and even get more sleep as a result?

The solution could lie in a cup of coffee.

Is Caffeine the Answer?

Caffeine is a beloved by many Americans ― in fact, an online survey in 2013 found that up to 62 percent of American adults drink coffee on a daily basis. It’s no wonder caffeinated beverages are so popular. For one thing, caffeine is a substance that you can literally become addicted to. And while caffeine may have unpleasant side effects, most people find the beneficial side effects too good to pass up. Research lends a strong hand in showcasing caffeine’s ability to increase alertness, improve brain function and provide a temporary boost in energy.

While there’s evidence to suggest that your coffee habit is resulting in a more productive you, it is widely accepted knowledge that it won’t necessarily lead to a better night’s sleep, especially if consumed mid-afternoon or later, as it can interfere with your body’s natural ability to produce melatonin. And if you’ve ever gone to work after a restless night, you know that poor sleep can negatively impact concentration and focus.

So how exactly does caffeine fit into this equation to maximize productivity without cutting into the sleep you need? The answer is simple yet surprising ― coffee naps!

What Is a Coffee Nap?

Haven’t heard of a coffee nap? Say hello to an evidence-backed tool — which actually works — that can help you be more productive and sleep more. Coffee naps are literally what they sound like. You drink a caffeinated beverage and then take a quick 30-minute nap. This is considered the ideal nap length because caffeine reaches a peak level in your blood after 30 minutes. You’ll get a quick nap, and when you wake up, you’ll feel refreshed and alert due to the caffeine kicking into your system.

Chronic sleep deprivation leads to progressive declines in mental function, often without the person even knowing how sleep deprived they are.

Around 200-250 mg of caffeine is considered optimal, based on the research, and coffee is recommended as opposed to a sugary soda such as Coke.

The perfect coffee nap varies depending on your work environment. If you work from home, grab or brew yourself some coffee. Make sure to drink it all, set a timer for 30 minutes, put your eye mask on and relax into your bed. If you’re in the office and nap pods are nowhere in sight, you have one of two options. You can either take a nap in your car, if you’re parked in a safe area, or you can drive home on your lunch break.

Additionally, make sure you’re taking your coffee nap before 3pm, or you may have trouble falling asleep that night.

Interested but still not convinced? Let’s take a look at whether or not there is compelling research to back up coffee naps.

Here’s What Science Says About Caffeinated Naps

In 2003, science found that a nap combined with caffeine worked better than a nap alone in reducing levels of sleepiness. Ten healthy adults were screened and tested for this study.

Research from 1997 points to how coffee naps can aid in performance and productivity. The study examined 12 sleepy individuals who participated in a simulated driving experience. They found that consuming 200 mg of caffeine ― the equivalent of 18 ounces of coffee ― effectively reduced sleepiness. Furthermore, it showed that participants were more alert because the number of incidents that occurred were reduced.

Coffee naps seem to be a smart move for those with night shifts, such as doctors and air traffic controllers. SLEEP published a study in 2006 which found that napping plus caffeine led to improved performance and alertness of night-shift workers. Those who have worked night shifts understand the very real pull sleepiness has on them ― the body’s circadian rhythm makes it harder for those working throughout the night.

Why Restful Sleep Matters

It’s no secret that more sleep can help you be more productive, but the positives don’t end there. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, quality sleep can boost problem-solving skills, promote physical wellness and regulate moods — all of which contribute to you feeling and functioning at your best. Given those benefits, it’s no surprise that a majority of Americans value sleep, even going so far as to pay $120 for a good night’s rest. Yet over a third of Americans report not sleeping enough. So why can’t Americans get the quality sleep they crave?

Wayne Giles, M.D., Director of CDC’s Division of Population Health, stated that “lifestyle changes such as going to bed at the same time each night; rising at the same time each morning; and turning off or removing televisions, computers, mobile devices from the bedroom, can help people get the healthy sleep they need.”

Everyone has experienced the unpleasant effects of what it feels like to not get enough sleep the night before. We feel cranky and become unreasonable ― and it’s also incredibly bad for our health. Sleep deprivation is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity and more. “Chronic sleep deprivation leads to progressive declines in mental function, often without the person even knowing how sleep deprived they are. Evidence suggests that you cannot get accustomed to less sleep,“ explains Dr. Sujay Kansagra M.D., Mattress Firm Sleep Health Consultant and author of “My Child Won’t Sleep.”

Can’t Drink Coffee?

While 62% of American adults drink coffee, that still leaves 38% who don’t. Despite the positive side effects of coffee, it’s hard to ignore the negatives ― including an upset stomach, jitters, increased heart rate and even muscle tremors.

However, there are still ways to experience the benefits of a coffee nap without coffee being part of the equation. Try drinking some green or chai tea to yield similar benefits. Just ensure you’re drinking enough to reach an intake of 200-250 mg of caffeine.

Should you take a coffee nap? That answer is completely up to you. But if you’re looking for a science-backed way to sleep more and be more productive, a coffee nap may be the boost you need.

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