Conventional wisdom says caffeine interrupts sleep. But you can exploit a quirk in the way both sleep and caffeine affect your brain to maximize alertness.
It’s a wild, mixed up world out there – so why not do something counterintuitive to stay alert?
Down a cup of coffee and take a nap. Call it a nappuccino! Or, a coffee nap. That piece of social media advice sounded like a practical joke, so we checked with Thye Schuyler, MD, from Salem Health Sleep Center.
“It may seem strange mixing naps and caffeine, but when timed correctly, these work powerfully in combination,” he said. “The longer a person naps the more likely to experience sleep inertia, which is that feeling of grogginess that’s hard to shake off. When consumed before the nap, coffee kicks in just as you wake up helping knock out the sleep inertia giving a ‘double whammy’ wakefulness effect.”
Dr. Schuyler doesn’t advise this technique for those who have heartburn or who can’t consume coffee or caffeine for other medical reasons. He wishes he’d coined the nappuccino term, but he discovered it in When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink.
Conventional wisdom says caffeine interrupts sleep. But if you immediately drink it before napping and sleep for 20 minutes or less, Dr. Schuyler says you can exploit a quirk in the way both sleep and caffeine affect your brain to maximize alertness.
If you “Google” coffee naps or nappuccino, you’ll find research explaining how this works – plus studies that show combining coffee with naps is even better than just drinking coffee or taking a nap.
How to take a nappuccino
- Find a dark, comfortable and quiet place to snooze around 2 or 3 p.m. (That may be the best time, especially for those on “regular” schedules.)
- Consume a small cup of coffee relatively quickly over a few minutes. If it's tough for you to drink a lot of hot coffee quickly, good options might be iced coffee or espresso. (Theoretically, you could drink another caffeinated beverage, but tea and soda generally have less caffeine than coffee, and energy drinks tend to have lots of sugar. Here's a good database of the amount of caffeine in many types of drinks.)
- Set your alarm for 25 minutes and lie down immediately. Assuming it takes 7-10 minutes to fall asleep, you will have slept for about 15-18 minutes – about the perfect nap length. It takes about 25-30 minutes for coffee to enter your bloodstream, so the caffeine should be kicking in just as you wake up.
Ta-daa! The perfect nap.
Worried about getting enough sleep in general?
If you’re concerned about having sleep apnea, getting enough sleep, or have questions about medicines vs. “natural remedies,” contact Salem Health Sleep Center. Dr. Schuyler’s team specializes in customizing sleep plans for those who struggle with getting enough sleep.
“We focus on natural solutions, not just prescribing sleeping medications, a last resort,” he said, noting each patient is evaluated, which often involves an over-night sleep study using the latest monitoring technology.
Contact the Salem Health Sleep Center:
Building C, Suite 4030