Coffee Naps are Better than Coffee or Naps alone

Scientists agree: coffee naps are better than just either having a coffee or taking a nap!

If you’re sleepy and want to shake out of it, take 20 minutes and do this which is better than either having a cup of coffee or taking a nap. It’s drinking a cup of coffee and then having a nap!

Conventional wisdom dictates that caffeine interferes with sleep, of course, but if you drink caffeine immediately before trying to nap and try to sleep for 20 minutes or less, you can refresh your mind and be back with a full alertness that neither coffee nor a nap could do merely on it’s own.

Tired? A coffee nap may help.

Tired? A coffee nap may help.

So how does it work?

It’s important to understand how caffeine affects your body.  When ingested, and after it goes through your small intestine and passes through your bloodstream, it goes into your brain.  In your brain, the caffeine fits into receptors that are normally fitted with a very similarly shaped molecule, adenosine. Adenoside is a by product of brain activity and when it accumulates, it plugs into these receptors and makes you feel exhausted.  Caffeine blocks these receptors, so it is impossible to feel tired.  Adenosine has no place to go.

You can think of caffeine as like blocking your brain’s brake pedals.

Caffeine can’t block every adenosine receptor. It competes for these spots.  But the trick is that sleeping clears adenosine from your brain, naturally. So if you nap longer than 15-20 minutes, your brain is more likely to enter deeper stages of sleep that require some time to recover from, but if it’s shorter than that, you won’t get this grogginess. It takes about 20 minutes for coffee to get through your bloodstream and gastrointestinal tract.

If you use those 20 minutes to nap, you’ll reduce your brains natural levels of adenosine just in time for the caffeine to kick in. With less adenosine, the caffeine will be more effective since it won’t have to compete with adenosine.

The results are in

If you still don’t buy it, scientists have performed cognitive tests that supports the theory. Caffeine, combined with sleep has been proved to improve brain function.   A previous study at the Loughborough University in the UK observed tired drivers in a simulator, set up for research purposes.  The participants were given 150 mg of caffeine (typical amount present in a cup of coffee) then asked to sleep for 15 minutes after drinking the beverage.  researchers discovered that when aided by a post-coffee nap, drivers committed far few errors in the driving simulator compared to when they just drank coffee alone or took shorter or longer naps.

Coffee. It's not just for the morning!

Coffee. It’s not just for the morning!

A Japanese study showed that people who took a nap after drinking caffeine performed better on a series of memory tests than people who only napped, or took a nap and splashed their faces with water or had a bright light shine in their eyes.  The subjects also rated themselves as less tired.

How to do it

  1. Find yourself a nice spot to nap. A relaxing environment with dim lighting that is not too noisy will work best.
  2. Grab your favourite caffeinated beverage, such as coffee, espresso or tea, or if you don’t like those, take a caffeine pill.
  3. Set an alarm to go off in 15-20 minutes, but no longer! After this time period, your brain will enter a deeper sleep and it will be harder to recover.
  4. Enjoy your nap.

Don’t you love science?

Coffee is best enjoyed in the backcountry

There are so many ways to enjoy coffee in the backcountry with the variety of filters and lightweight mugs and presses available. Check out the great selection that REI and Backcountry.



Alicja is an economist, enjoys climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, cycling and gets out into the backcountry as much as possible. See all of Alicja's Blog Posts