Most people would probably agree: Naps are great, except for the less-than-ideal grogginess they feel when waking up. Coffee is amazing, too, right up until that caffeine buzz comes crashing down.
Perhaps there’s a way to get the best of both worlds in the form of coffee naps. Never heard of them? While people will occasionally joke about them on social media, it turns out that there may actually be some merit to the practice, which includes drinking coffee, napping for less than 30 minutes and waking up refreshed right as the caffeine kicks in. The U.K. Department of Transport even tested the practice in a small case study that found that taking a nap less than 15 minutes after consuming caffeine made drivers more alert.
Can coffee naps actually energize you?
Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietician at the Cleveland Clinic, confirmed that short naps have been found to be beneficial both “in providing enhanced energy and alertness.” She also cited a study that links short naps to potentially reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. That said, the factor of caffeine tolerance is also at play in this situation.
“Coffee naps may be beneficial for the right person,” said Kirkpatrick. “Individuals vary based on their metabolism of caffeine.”
While most people probably built their caffeine tolerance in their early 20s, Kirkpatrick noted that there are actually people who are genetically predisposed to quickly metabolizing caffeine. And if you’re hoping to take a nap right after drinking a big cup of joe, this could actually matter. “In these individuals, it’s possible that the whole theory behind coffee napping — drinking the coffee, waiting about 30 minutes for the caffeine to take effect while napping — may be inhibited due to a higher metabolism of caffeine,” said Kirkpatrick.
While Kirkpatrick explained that people should consider their reaction to caffeine first, if you know that you have a normal-to-high caffeine tolerance — you may be in luck. “A coffee nap could be a perfect way to recharge the midday batteries with a quick nap, followed by a burst of caffeine,” said Kirkpatrick. “Listen to your body before making that decision.”
New York City-based stand-up comedian Jake Timothy explained that coffee naps keep him going during those late-night sets. “If I drink coffee later in the day, I’ll take a 20-minute nap afterwards and I feel like it energizes me for a few hours instead of making me jittery and keeping me up all night,” says Timothy. “Especially when I’m performing and I need that extra energy, but not the anxiety.”
Other ways to boost your energy:
Keri Glassman, a New York City-based registered dietician and health coach, explained that while she agrees that short naps and caffeine both have their benefits, she’d rather that her clients not become reliant on this practice.
“The idea of having coffee (and) then taking a quick nap may hold weight, but you are also racing against the clock,” said Glassman. “I'd probably prefer someone take a quick nap and then have coffee or green tea.”
Kirkpatrick confirms that if you’re really just looking for more energy throughout the day — considering healthful choices like staying hydrated is more along the lines of sustainable health practices.