Do you feel sluggish midway through the day? Maybe you’ve tried everything, but you still hit a slump about 3 pm. You may begin to wonder if there’s any possible way to get through your days without this afternoon crash.
Enter the caffeine nap.
It’s easy. Drink a cup of coffee, espresso, or other caffeinated beverage of your choice. It takes the caffeine about 20 minutes to kick in. Spend those 20 minutes taking a short nap. The combination of caffeine and rest can get you through your afternoon without your usual energy crash.
Sure, it sounds counterintuitive. After all, most of us use caffeine to wake up, not to sleep. Here’s why the caffeine nap works so well.
Caffeine and Adenosine: A Tale of Two Molecules
Adenosine is a chemical that makes you fall asleep. When it binds to nerve cells, it slows down their activity. It’s common to find high levels of adenosine in people who feel sleepy, drowsy, or exhausted.
Caffeine can bind to the same cell receptors as adenosine. When the caffeine molecule is there, the adenosine can’t bind to that cell. Therefore, caffeine keeps you from feeling drowsy by blocking adenosine from binding to nerve cells.
The more adenosine molecules that get bound to your nerve cells, the sleepier you’re going to be. The more caffeine you have there, the more awake and alert you will be.
Enter the Nap
It takes about 20 minutes for caffeine to pass through your stomach to your small intestine, get absorbed into your bloodstream, and travel to the relevant nerve cells. However, the caffeine can’t bind to those cells if adenosine is already there.
One of the best ways to clear adenosine from your system is to get some sleep. This signals the cells to release the adenosine molecules because your body doesn’t need to rest anymore. When the adenosine is released, the caffeine has a place where it can bind.
Your 20-minute nap is the perfect way to get the most out of your afternoon coffee. Since you have about that much time before the caffeine is metabolized anyway, you may as well spend it clearing the adenosine out of your nerve cell receptors so they can use the caffeine when it gets there!
Still Not Convinced? Science Says…
The caffeine nap gets better results than either caffeine or napping do on their own.
Scientists in the United Kingdom found that people who drank coffee and then napped for 15 minutes did better on a simulated driving test than those who only had coffee or a nap. Similarly, scientists in Japan found that the coffee nap was very effective at helping tired drivers. They noted that people were more awake and alert for more than an hour after the nap.
If you’re not a good napper, don’t worry! Even if you don’t fall all the way to sleep in 20 minutes, half-sleep or dozing had similar effects to napping.
You don’t even have to like coffee for this to work because any source of caffeine will do. So you can take a coffee nap, an espresso nap, a Mountain Dew nap, or even a Monster nap. As long as you take in caffeine and then nap, the process should be effective for you.