Why You Probably Shouldn’t Bother with “Coffee Naps”

coffee nap funny

“Any second my brain’s gonna explode, any second my brain’s gonna explode, any second my…”

So apparently “coffee naps” are a thing. Scientists have been recommending them lately as the ultimate power nap. And it’s exactly what it sounds like. You chug a cup of coffee (lukewarm or cold, I’d imagine) and then you take a flying leap into your bed or break room couch and, quick!, fall asleep before the caffeine kicks in 20 minutes later. In theory, the caffeine will snap you awake and you’ll be more refreshed and focused than you would have been with just the coffee or just the nap.

That’s right, you have a 20 minute window to force yourself, with caffeine already bubbling through your stomach tubes, with the afternoon sun shining smack in your face, with the fuse already lit, to fall gently asleep.

Good luck.

The theory behind this makes enough sense, I guess. An article on coffee naps in Elite Daily sums it up as follows: Our brain naturally produces a chemical called adenosine. This is the chemical our brain uses to keep tabs on how tired it’s supposed to be. Throughout the day—especially after a storm of brain activity, adenosine collects like rain puddles in our brain and fits into special receptors. The receptors are like trip wires; as more and more of them are tripped, we get more and more tired.

What typical naps do is they help clear out the accumulated adenosine, making us less tired. Meanwhile, caffeine gives us that coveted alertness by interacting with and freaking out those hopefully-empty adenosine receptors. They need to be clear of adenosine in order for caffeine to be effective. That’s why caffeine doesn’t always do a good job waking you up—sometimes you’re just too polluted with adenosine!

I’m still not totally clear on why scientists have been suggesting that a coffee nap is better than just coffee, just nap, or even taking a quick nap and then drinking coffee. I don’t get the latter. Why all of a sudden do you have to insanely drink coffee before your nap, when, either way, the same theory applies: nap reduces adenosine, caffeine swoops in and suddenly you’re Rain Man-counting-toothpicks.

drinking coffee fast

Pouring coffee into a mug wastes a good 10 seconds out of your 20 minute nap break. Skip it.

If it’s all the same to you, Scientists, I’d rather just take a sober 20 minute nap and then, while I’m working back to my cubicle, start drinking my coffee. Taking naps during the day is hard enough as it is. There’s a sort of performance anxiety going on there. Sometimes you just sit there on the break room couch, eyes shut, head tilted back, for your entire 20 minutes break without ever falling to sleep. You might pretend to be asleep when your coworkers walk in and out of the room, but really you’re just sitting there with your eyes closed like a crazy.

It’s a rule, in fact. Your ability to take a power nap has an inverse relationship with how badly you feel you need to take that nap. If your boss is away on vacation and you’ve got absolutely nothing going on? Your attempt at a nap will likely be successful. If you have a major presentation to give to your coworkers later in the day, and you’re operating on zero sleep from the night before, your attempt at a nap will likely fail. Too much pressure. It’s like trying to take free throws when the game’s on the line—suddenly it’s so much harder.

But damn, how hard would it be if you chugged a whole cup of lukewarm coffee first? How the hell are you supposed to fall asleep knowing that, at any moment, your brain is basically going to explode with activity. You’re a freaking ticking time bomb! That’s some real Rock a Bye Baby stuff right there, let me tell you.

And how long did it take you to drink the probably-too-hot coffee? How long did it take you, in an anxious state of mind, to fall asleep? Just how many minutes do you lose out of your ostensible 20 minute coffee nap in order to have a 20 minute coffee nap? Not very economical, I’d think.

You have a much better chance to actually fall asleep—and more potential “sleep time”—if you just stick with what job-havers have been doing for hundreds of years: take a full twenty minute nap and then, while your supposedly back on the job, drink your coffee. And take your time, too. Sip real slow, and smile lovingly after every sip. Your boss won’t say squat. The best part of drinking coffee on the job is it sort of looks like you’re working.

I was going to go into deeper research regarding why some scientists think coffee naps are more effective than just taking a nap and then drinking coffee, but you know what? I’m too tired. In fact I think I better go take a nap.

Who’s got a 5-Hour-Energy?

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9 Responses to Why You Probably Shouldn’t Bother with “Coffee Naps”

  1. This is interesting and you are absolutely right about the whole ‘pressure’ thing.I don’t know why the waking up after 20 minutes as a result of the caffeine stimulation would be better than, say, setting an alarm. Maybe something about the way you are woken up, from the inner stimulation rather than outer??

  2. Tempest Rose says:

    Haha this is ridiculous!

    But I don’t work that way, anyway. I feel worse after naps and coffee, although I drink it, rarely wakes me up.

    • Bill Carson says:

      yeah, I hear ya. Sometimes a nap can leave you feeling more tired and groggy than ever, although I bet cognitive functioning is slightly better than it is before the nap. Probably not enough to matter though!

      As for coffee: it starts giving you diminishing returns after the third cup, I’ve found. Just makes you more tired, though that won’t always stop me from drinking number four in a pinch.

  3. Doobster418 says:

    Brief daytime naps never work well for me. If I try and nap for a 20-30 minutes and if I successfully fall asleep, when I wake up, I feel even more tired and groggy than I did before the nap. So I don’t often do daytime naps. Not intentionally, anyway.

    • Bill Carson says:

      I’ve discovered that the best naps are just five or ten minutes long. Anything longer than that and, like you, I just feel more tired and sleep-wanting than I did before. My secret method is I stay away from couches or beds or anything soft. I lie flat on the floor (provided I have some privacy) and just doze off. This position is so uncomfortable, I’ll automatically wake up about 5-10 minutes later, usually somewhat recharged.

  4. zareenn3 says:

    I can’t believe this is actually a thing. Bizzare!

    Hahaha, I agree with you completely.I’d rather take my coffee AFTER the nap too!

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