Best of Both Worlds: The Coffee Nap

May 14, 2015

Coffee, or a nap? Now, you don’t have to choose!

Have a moment to recharge between rehearsals? If you’re like me, you probably spend a little too much of your break trying to choose between a cup of coffee or a quick power nap. But what if you didn’t have to choose?

Enter, the coffee nap.

It seems a little counter-intuitive, but several studies suggest that having caffeine before a short nap can actually improve your alertness. The reasoning is quite simple: It’s all about body chemistry. Throughout the day, a chemical compound called adenosine builds up in your brain. Adenosine induces drowsiness and sends signals to your body that shift you towards sleep. As you sleep, the built-up adenosine gets broken down.

On the flip side, caffeine competes with adenosine to fill receptors in the brain. Because caffeine takes 20 to 30 minutes to have an effect on the body, you can maximize its benefits by drinking a cup of coffee, then napping for 20 or 30 minutes. While you sleep, you’re reducing the amount of adenosine in your brain and by the time you wake up, the caffeine is already kicking. Talk about perfect timing.

Everything in moderation, though. It’s important to remember that caffeine is disruptive for longer periods of sleep, so don’t overdo it.