How to Take A Caffeine Nap

by Brad Isaac on February 10, 2006

I found an interesting energy tip in Field and Stream magazine. I am not normally a reader, but was waiting for an appointment and couldn’t find anything else to read. So I picked one up and flipped almost immediately to a side bar tip The Caffeine Nap. I have never heard of such a thing so I was immediately intrigued.

Sleep researchers at the Loughborough University in Britain did several tests on fatigued drivers to compare the effects of different methods for a driver can use to stay awake. They put the volunteers in driving simulators while they were sleepy and let them drive. Some of the tests included rolling down windows for cold exposure, blasting the radio and slapping oneself in the face to try to stay awake. But what researchers found worked the best was a Caffeine Nap.

The Caffeine Nap is simple. You drink a cup of coffee and immediately take a 15 minute nap. Researchers found coffee helps clear your system of adenosine, a chemical which makes you sleepy. So in testing, the combination of a cup of coffee with an immediate nap chaser provided the most alertness for the longest period of time. The recommendation was to nap only 15 minutes, no more or less and you must sleep immediately after the coffee.

Considering this is something cheap and accessible to virtually anyone it’s probably a good tip to keep in your toolbag for long trips.


June 15, 2008 at 8:19 am

Funny to read this – because I’m down with the flu at the moment, and have been taking Codral Original Formula with psuedo ephedrine in it. I love this stuff haha because no matter how bad I feel, if I have it and take a nap, I wake up feeling awesome – no more drowsiness and heaps of energy.

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November 26, 2008 at 8:43 am

This is interesting. When I first started reading this I thought that it meant you take a quick nap and then have a coffee as soon as you wake up. I’ve been doing this for a while and it really seems to work for me …

But it seems that this method could be even more effective. Will definitely try it and see …

Steven February 22, 2009 at 6:22 pm

I just read through all the comments, and noticed there are a lot of misconceptions and unanswered questions, so I will try to clarify some things.

First, in response to a post a few up from this, aspirin does not contain caffeine, Excedrin does. Excedrin also contains aspirin and acetaminophen. I personally avoid it, and take either acetaminophen by itself or with just plain aspirin. The reason I do this is because while it initially helps make the headache go away, caffeine will actually make it worse long term.

To answer those people wondering about the purpose of the nap, or having questions about the specific time line of events for a caffeine nap, the nap is to allow yourself a small amount of sleep to help refresh yourself somewhat before you begin the extended period of being awake. It’s just like a power nap. The reason for the 15 minutes (in a research article I read last year I believe it said 30 minutes) is because that is approximately how long it takes the caffeine to start having its effects. You go to sleep right after, while you still can, and you get as much sleep as you can until the caffeine starts waking you up. Keep in mind, of course, it may not wake you on its own, especially if you’re very tired, so unless you set an alarm, you may have just taken in high amounts of caffeine for no reason. As far as when to start the timer, I’d say as soon as you start drinking. At that point the caffeine is making its way into your system and the countdown is beginning. Obviously, the faster you drink a cup of coffee or an energy drink the faster it will start impacting you, and it will be more sudden. The slower you drink it, the slower and more gradual it will be. If you take 15 minutes to drink it, you may not be able to get a nap in.

Another thing to keep in mind is that caffeine has detrimental effects on sleep quality, so when you do sleep when you’re finally done studying or whatever it is you’re staying up for, it won’t be as refreshing as it otherwise would be. This is also, at least partly, why it has the effect on dreams that some people commented on. It disrupts the sleep cycle, preventing you from entering deep sleep as much, so you spend more time in REM sleep, which is when you dream. Alcohol has the same effect.

Another thing, in fact the main thing it was about, the research article I read mentioned was that glucose (sugar) and caffeine combined are more effective at maintaining mental alertness and efficiency than either one on their own. So adding a little sugar to coffee or, in my case, drinking energy drinks (mainly because coffee is hard on my stomach the following day) is even better for late night studying. And as long as you only have one, maybe two and only do it occasionally, it’s very unlikely it’s going to cause any problems. For example, I never drink soda/pop, and every now and then when I’m pulling a late night of studying I’ll have an energy drink (very rarely I’ll have two). Compared to the caffeine consumption of regular coffee or soda/pop drinkers, I feel very comfortable with my level of intake. Drinking high doses, as in one or two every day or more than three or so at a time, has been linked to seizures, but it’s pretty uncommon, and I don’t drink even close to what would even be considered marginal. As with anything else, it’s about being smart and maintaining a common sense limit.

Also as with anything involving your health, if you’re concerned about it (which I hope you are), you should do your own research, even if it’s just talking to your doctor. I hope I’ve been able to clear things up for everyone and answer some of your questions.

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