Caffeine Naps

Image: Silkscreen print “Il Caffé” by Brad Blackman, of an Italian stovetop coffeemaker

A good while back, I read a post on Lifehacker about caffeine naps. The idea is pretty simple:

  1. down a cup of coffee (espresso in my case)
  2. lie down and take a quick 15 — 20 minute nap
  3. get up immediately, feeling energized and focused

According to the Achieve-IT blog, sleep researchers at the Loughborough University in Britain found that the caffeine nap was very effective for sleepy drivers:

Researchers found coffee helps clear your system of adenosine, a chemical which makes you sleepy. So in testing, the combination of a cup of coffee with an immediate nap chaser provided the most alertness for the longest period of time. The recommendation was to nap only 15 minutes, no more or less and you must sleep immediately after the coffee.

Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Work Week author Tim Ferris talks about the caffeine nap too, taking a bit of a scholarly approach and going a bit further to hack his sleep in his article Relax Like A Pro: 5 Steps to Hacking Your Sleep:

Test “caffeine naps” between 1-3 pm. Down an espresso and set your alarm for no more than 20 minutes, which prevents awakening in the middle of a restorative sleep cycle. Interrupting cycles often leaves you feeling worse than no sleep (though some researchers assert your performance will still improve in comparison with deprivation).

I’m not a chemist, so I don’t understand all that stuff about adenosine (I even looked it up on Wikipedia). What I do know is that the caffeine nap works pretty well. I’ve tried it a couple of times, and it delivered as promised. I woke up extremely energetic and focused. I also began talking really fast, which annoyed my wife, since she’s not used to my being that energetic.

I think this technique could be really useful if you’re trying to focus on a piece of art or a piece of writing. Or maybe you’re a student trying to hunker down for finals (it’s that time of year, isn’t it?) you might try the caffeine nap. I don’t think it’s something you’d want to do every day, though. And remember, kids, caffeine is definitely no replacement for sleep.