Lately I’ve become aware of the coffee nap. Apparently it’s a thing. A thing about which there’s been a lot of research and articles written. I would link to a few articles for you, but frankly if you google coffee nap you’ll find a zillion of them, all laying it out for you in essentially the same way. I’ll also try it for you, thought it’s kind of technical.
So forgive me for getting too science-y, but there’s this goo called adenosine that builds up in your brain. Sleep clears the goo away. Clearing out that goo helps make caffeine hit even better, without all the jittery stuff. And the final piece of the equation is that it takes about 20 minutes for caffeine to affect the brain.
So, basically, the idea is to drink coffee quickly. Preferably espresso or cold brew so you can drink it fast and not loose any precious mind goo clearance time. No milk or sugar or sweetener, just black. Immediately close your eyes and nap for 20 minutes. Wake up refreshed, alert, and ready to carpe all the diems you can handle.
So I decided to try it. Here’s the results of my highly scientific studies.
My first two tries happened on a round trip drive to Vermont (where among other things I visited this place). Each time I was starting to get that special kind of debilitating sleepy feeling that only hits during a seemingly endless daytime drive. In each instance the only thing I could find at the roadside convenience stores where we stopped that fit the bill was black coffee, from the self-serve dripped coffee urns. Tasted like hot something, and I had a bit of a struggle to slug it down quickly without burning the roof of my mouth. Set an alarm on my phone, and closed my eyes.
Both times I found it easy enough to fall asleep quickly because I felt so tired, and the hypnotic lull of a car on the highway certainly did its part. I woke both times to find that I did indeed feel refreshed and clear headed and wide awake. Huh, maybe these brain goo scientists are really onto something!
One thing I found on the first effort in particular was that after a couple hours, I experience a big drop-off akin to going over a cliff as the caffeine wore off.
Once back hope from the trip, I was eager to see if this magical life hack would work, or if I was just an adult version of a baby whose parents put a lot of miles on the car because it’s the only place it will sleep.
Attempt one: on a weekend afternoon when I was feeling a little droopy, I prepared my favorite chair to nap in, grabbed a comfortable throw, and made an espresso. My loyal companion Charlie was at my side. All looked promising.
I slurped down my drink, pulled the throw over myself, kicked the chair into recline mode, set the alarm and shut my eyes. Annnnnnddddddddddd………. I managed to keep my eyes shut for 20 minutes, but I didn’t actually fall asleep. Too much light? Too excited to do this experiment? Too many thoughts bouncing around in my head? When I “woke” I didn’t have the feeling of being refreshed and alert. I felt like I had had an espresso but needed a nap. Charlie didn’t seem to care much either way.
Gave it another shot the following weekend. Changed things up to try to improve the chances of success. This time I moved to the basement family room, which has several advantages. No windows, so no risk of light interfering. A sectional sofa that has been the scene of many a nap, particularly by me, and has all the throw pillows anyone could ever want to build the perfect custom napping cocoon. It’s the coldest room in the house. One of my daughter’s soft, thick, heavy blankets is down there. For sure this time would be a smashing success.
Threw back the shot, nestled into the pillows, settled under that dreamy blanket, set an alarm, closed my eyes and headed off for the land of Nod. And this time….
…… again, nothing. 20 minutes with my eyes closed and my mind speeding through an endless forest of double helixes and hairpin turns and never settling down enough to sleep. Waking up feeling the same as when I started, just a bit caffeinated, but with the strong impression that a nap would be a great idea.
I’m going to continue to chase this. I think I need to worry less about the setting and other externalities and make sure I’m truly tired, then focus on clearing my head and notching back the self-imposed pressure to prove this thing works. If I have time for a nap, feel like I need it, and am able to take it? That’s a great gift! I’ll have to not make such a big thing of it mentally, focusing my brain more on the nap part and less on the coffee part. And maybe that will work. Otherwise I’ll have to see who’s around to take me for a drive.