I used to hate the idea of a nap – sleeping away the middle of my day and waking up groggy and annoyed just seemed like an awful thing to do even when I was super tired. On top of that, I had a hard time getting to ‘sleep’ and when I did I’d sleep for a while – that just defeated the point of a nap.
I read about coffee naps earlier last year and they sounded intriguing. Basically, you drink a cup of coffee (or shot of espresso) and take a 20 minute nap. When you wake up the caffeine has kicked in and you’ve had a rest so you’re super recharged. This sounded amazing – oh and I love coffee…
Okay, so why does a caffeine + nap combo help you more than just either on it’s own? When your adenosine concentration is high in the brain – you get sleepy. When you sleep, an enzyme called adenosine desaminase depletes the adenosine in your brain and this resulting drop in adenosine concentration leads to wakefulness. Caffeine works by blocking adenosine receptors – with these receptors blocked your body thinks there is a lower concentration of adenosine thus helping you feel more wakeful.
So put those together…taking a short nap to help you reduce your adenosine concentration in the brain and giving caffeine the time it needs to absorb through your small intestine and into your bloodstream blocking adenosine receptors…and you have a recipe for BEING AWAKE!
Some light reading if you’re interested:
Alright how did this work for me…
I was super stoked to try coffee napping and I tried it last year. I had a concentrated ‘cup’ (more like 1/2 cup) of coffee and lay in bed…waiting to sleep. The pressure of trying to fall asleep fast enough to get 20 minutes of napping in before the caffeine kicked in didn’t help. I had a hard time sleeping…I might have had less than 10 minutes before my alarm went off. I didn’t feel good at all.
I tried this several more times to see if I just had an off day or if a shot of espresso would work better and it just didn’t work for me. The hardest part was trying to fall asleep and possibly the placebo effect of immediately feeling awake because ‘I’ve just consumed a coffee so I’m wired and should be awake’. At this point I had given up on the idea of napping…
…Just a couple of weeks ago. On my hunt for a meditation app (more on this when I complete my 30 days of meditation) I found one (that I love) called Calm. I’ve tried a few including Headspace and found those just didn’t work for me. Meditation aside, Calm has a few things to help you sleep – one of which is a ‘Sleep Story’ track intended for afternoon naps. I was pretty intrigued and wanted to see if a Nap track would help me get to sleep. I remembered my interest in coffee naps and figured I’d give a coffee nap another try with this Nap track:
It helped me focus on my breath and relaxing…I was still unsure that I’d be able to actually nap. Next thing I know, I heard the gentle birdsong, I’m pleasantly surprised and excited that I wasn’t awake the entire time or jolted awake by an alarm. I felt quite refreshed and awake, not groggy, not tired, and not annoyed – ready to take on the rest of my day!
At this point, I was pretty stoked that I’d had a successful nap – a successful coffee nap and felt pretty good. I figured I’d give this a try on several other occasions: in the 1-hour I had between a 6am client call and virtual team standup, after a long day at work, and post weekend hike. So far, in all those cases, I woke up feeling really energized. I had a cup of coffee before the nap and used the same nap track and have consistently felt great waking up.
Am I ready to nap everyday? Not sure – maybe this can be a challenge for the second half of the year or next year’s 52 things list. Does this help me when I’m tired and could use a quick refresher – definitely! I do love the Calm app and it helped me a lot. Will naps, coffee naps or nap apps (oh the rhyme!) help you? You won’t know unless you try – as always #YMMV (your mileage might vary).