Experiments: Coffee Nap

I hate naps. Actually, I don’t hate napping, I just dislike how I feel afterward. Although it’s hard to describe, the general feeling I experience is one of my entire body acting drugged or asleep, as if I’m trying to wade through a swamp of molasses while carrying an unconscious cow. Scientists call it sleep inertia, and it makes me feel like a limp, overcooked noodle. Even worse, napping in the afternoon makes it hard for me to fall asleep at night, which usually tempts me to stay up late and disrupt my usual sleep cycle.

Because of this, I rarely take naps. But there are those times when I start feeling sleepy and drowsy, usually on weekends, and I wish I could just take a nap and feel OK afterwards. My best experience has been with taking a shorter nap and forcing myself to get up and do something active (mow the lawn, wash the car, etc). But is there a better way for those of us who struggle with the aftermath of a delicious nap?

Coffee + Naps = ??

Just yesterday, I found myself feeling sleepy in the early afternoon, right as my kids were cuddling in their beds for their usual rest times. It was cloudy and slightly rainy, perfect “sleeping weather” conditions. I remembered hearing about the idea of a “coffee nap” somewhere, so decided to give it a try.

While firing up the espresso machine, I googled around for a refresher on the general concept of a coffee nap. What I found was (generally) as follows:

  • Caffeine from coffee takes about 20 min on average to reach your bloodstream
  • Napping for 15-20 minutes doesn’t allow your body to fall into deeper levels of sleep that lead to the nasty sleep inertia stuff
  • If you time things just right, you can drink your coffee and take a nap, only to have the caffeine hit your system when you wake up

I don’t drink hot coffee fast, so I brewed a double-shot iced latte and guzzled it all at once. Delicious as always, this coffee was a sample of a Brazilian bean from La Bodega that I roasted last week. I then re-downloaded the Sleep Cycle Power Nap app to my iPhone, fired up a 20 minute nap, and jumped between the sheets.

Resulting Wakefulness

Before I knew it, I heard the gentle wake-up sounds coming from my iPhone, which had somehow uncomfortably wedged itself under my ribcage. But I had napped the whole time! Upon waking up, I felt I had enough willpower to get out of the bed. I have to say, I didn’t feel like I was fully awake, and the expected jolt of caffeine energy wasn’t there either. But I grabbed the copy of Offscreen Magazine that I had been wanting to peruse, and walked to my favorite chair and sat down to read.

Surprisingly, I was able to power through a few articles and I felt much more alert than I have after taking a nap than I have in a long time. Plus, reading usually makes me sleepy, and I didn’t feel drowsy at all. One takeaway: it wouldn’t have been possible without the willpower to get out of bed and do something. I was feeling quite comfy, and really wanted another 20 minutes of sweet slumber. However, I think I can call this experiment with the dangerous enterprise of napping a reasonable success.