coffee cup on a small table with a young woman sleeping on a couch nearby


The double shot of power in a coffee nap

  • Coffee naps need to be short and well-timed.
  • Long-term sleep problems can affect heart health.
  • Being unable to skip a nap may signal a sleep disorder.

It may seem counterintuitive to drink a cup of coffee before trying to grab a little shuteye. But when timed correctly, there may be a double shot of benefits with a "coffee nap."

Anatomy of naps

Power nap: This is a quick break that can boost alertness, mood and performance. Around 20-30 minutes, it offers enough time to feel rested, but not so much that you slip into the deeper stages of sleep that can leave you groggy upon waking. A power nap generally keeps you in the first two of the four stages of sleep.

Coffee nap: The general principle, not a medical definition, is to drink some caffeine and then grab a power nap. There’s no sipping. You down the coffee and try to fall asleep quickly.

Caffeine takes about 20 minutes to reach its peak concentration in the bloodstream and boosts energy. If your nap is about that long, when you wake up, you'll already have the benefits of the shuteye, and your body will start to feel the effects of the caffeine.

Caffeine is restorative because it blocks some chemicals that make you tired. So, a coffee nap rests your body, and caffeine also helps to make you less tired.

To make a coffee nap effective:

  • Don't take it too close to bedtime
  • Be ready to lie down as soon as you drink the coffee
  • Set an alarm to avoid oversleeping
  • Limit yourself to 30 minutes or less

Pro tip: Most people tend to have a circadian lull in the early afternoon between 1-3 p.m. This may be a good time to try a coffee nap.

Other options for caffeine: The studies on coffee naps have used a dose of 200 mg of caffeine. That's about the amount in a 12-oz. cup of coffee. Other sources of caffeine may also work. However, soda and energy drinks tend to have lower amounts of caffeine and come with other additives. Pay attention to ingredients and especially the amount of caffeine in non-coffee drinks.

The case for a coffee nap

Sleep serves many vital functions. However, a power nap mainly focuses on the benefit of overcoming sleepiness. A coffee nap adds to that effect, offering post-nap energy.

A typical adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep. There's a general misunderstanding that you need to log those hours together. The truth is it was common for our ancestors to sleep several times a day, so getting enough sleep in multiple "shifts" is not intrinsically bad.

Is the need to nap a sign of trouble?

Napping is normal. However, there are short-term and long-term consequences of not getting enough sleep, including compromised heart health.

If you "must" nap during the day versus someone who "feels better" with a nap, you should mention the issue in your annual exam or schedule a sleep evaluation. The naps themselves aren’t the problem. The "why" behind the nap may be a concern.

Sleep issues range from bad habits — what doctors call sleep hygiene — to more serious conditions, including insomnia, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.


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