How Drinking Coffee Can Make Your Naps More Effective, According to Experts


If you're a coffee lover, join the club. Seventy-five percent of people in the U.S. drink coffee, and 49 percent of them drink it every day, according to a 2016 study published in The Journal of Nutrition. You may enjoy your morning cup of joe for various reasons, like its ability to boost alertness or reduce chronic disease risk. However, a new sleep trend suggests that drinking coffee before a nap can improve the quality of your rest and increase energy levels, according to the Sleep Foundation.

While drinking coffee to enhance sleep may seem counterintuitive, "coffee naps" are growing in popularity for their reported energizing benefits. Read on to discover how adding this new sleep hack to your daily routine can help boost your energy and get you through that afternoon slump.

READ THIS NEXT: 5 Surprising Ways Your Morning Cup of Coffee Boosts Your Health, According to Experts.

Pairing caffeine with naps can energize you more than either does alone.

Coffee naps combine the alertness boost of caffeine with the rejuvenating power of naps. Here's how it works: When you drink coffee before falling asleep, the caffeine prevents your brain from absorbing adenosine, a naturally occurring neurotransmitter in your body that causes sleepiness, according to a Jan. 2015 study published in Current Neuropharmacology. In turn, a short nap can enhance caffeine's energizing effects by increasing caffeine receptor availability in your brain, according to Healthline experts. Therefore, coffee naps may boost energy more than just drinking coffee or sleeping.

Peter Michael, MD, Health Advisor and Chief Medical Officer of VUE, tells Best Life, "Caffeine masks sleepiness signals in the brain. When we're awake, caffeine and adenosine are in direct competition. Therefore, napping clears the adenosine away, making more caffeine receptors available."

READ THIS NEXT: What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Drinking Coffee for a Month, Doctors Say.

Coffee naps offer several health benefits.
iStock / Julia Amaral

Drinking coffee before napping can provide an array of health benefits. "Research has shown that combining caffeine and a nap can enhance cognitive and physical performance, problem-solving, and mental acuity. Additionally, a 10-minute nap combined with caffeine consumption can improve alertness, fatigue, and other areas of cognitive functioning," Michael explains.

A 2010 study published in Progress in Brain Research found that short naps of five to 15 minutes deliver almost immediate cognitive functioning benefits that can last for up to three hours. Additionally, coffee naps can help prevent excessive caffeine consumption throughout the day, making it easier to get quality sleep at night, according to a Feb. 2017 article published in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews.

Timing your coffee naps correctly is essential.

To get the most out of your coffee naps, it's important to time them correctly. A study published in Nov. 2006 found that the ideal nap duration is a maximum of 30 minutes. Napping longer than half an hour, experts say, can decrease productivity and disrupt sleep inertia. Additionally, a 2020 pilot study published in Chronobiology International looked at the effects of coffee naps on night shift workers. Researchers found that participants who consumed 200 milligrams of caffeine (about two cups of coffee) before sleeping for 30 minutes experienced more energy, improved concentration, and less fatigue than those who consumed a decaffeinated placebo.

"The type of coffee and amount of caffeine consumed should be considered when taking a coffee nap," explains Michael. "It's recommended to drink a cup of coffee 10 minutes before taking a 15 to 30 minute nap. The ideal length of a coffee nap is 20 minutes, and it should be taken at least six hours before bedtime. Taking a too long or short coffee nap won't effectively increase energy and alertness and can have the opposite effect."

For more health news sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Here's how to optimize your coffee nap.
Tatevosian Yana/Shutterstock

The experts at AmeriSleep recommend downing your pre-nap coffee quickly. If you sip it slowly, the caffeine may kick in too soon, they say, disrupting your sleep quality. Choosing a cold coffee beverage over a hot one can make it easier to consume faster. Also, they recommend opting for black coffee or espresso shots, since they deliver caffeine in a purer form, optimizing the effectiveness of your coffee nap.

"It's important to choose black coffee without added sugars or flavors, as these can cause an unnatural energy spike and crash later, which interferes with digestion," says Michael.