Grant Spencer

Applied science: The power of the coffee nap

According to science the coffee nap is the most effective type of power nap, so we tasked Grant Spencer with testing it…he may have taken it a bit too far.

I was a latecomer to coffee.

As any good suburban brat, I was particularly adverse to any flavour that wasn’t something crossed between pork belly fat and a chocolate cream-filled donut. Eventually, I discovered caffeine through energy drinks and realised that my steadily-increasing addiction did not have to come in the form of a medicinal-flavoured nightmare.

I also discovered that I am caffeine sensitive. This means that if you give me a coffee after 3pm, I will be happily wiggling myself to death in the quicksand that is YouTube and eventually suffocate there well after 12am.

Sleeplessness combined with incessant chattiness transfused with creative grandiosity and all of a sudden you can understand how I escaped amphetamines in my early 20s.

What goes up must come down however, and I found that if I tried loading myself up with caffeine in the afternoon to ensure that I was acutely aggravating at the impending party, I would either immediately see God and sit down to write the World’s Greatest Song, or I would feel the immediate need for a nap. You may have recently heard that combining a power nap (approximately 20 minutes) with your coffee of choice is the best way to perk yourself up in the afternoon. Scientists did science things and proved the usefulness of something that I had stumbled on accidentally about 10 years ago.

So it turns out if you nap it clears out a chemical in your blood called adenosine. Adenosine gathers in your system toward the end of your day and makes you feel drowsy. Caffeine will fight against adenosine, but with a short nap to clear it up the caffeine has an open pathway to storm the brain-castle and touch your reigning King in his special place. Try not to think too much about that euphemism, I had a double cappuccino this morning.

I should give you a few tips for the most effective stimulation that is entirely scientific and based on the staggering sample size that is me. Do not drink the coffee and wait a bit before you fall to sleep. Try to do it immediately after so the caffeine has no chance to kick in. For best results, fall face down on the doona and wake up freezing with a dead arm. Try to avoid a strong (i.e. a double espresso) coffee. I’ve found that this kicks in far too hard and has you crushing a small plastic water cup as you run a half marathon in your business shirt sans-pants because you only made it halfway through getting into your jimjams. The latter may have something to do with my own sensitivity. So, you know, insert a methodological-limitations-to-my-study disclaimer here.

I’ve found that when I get it right, my brain shuts off almost immediately after that afternoon coffee because my brain is all “fuck you man the reigning King is starting to hump the furniture and sweat pointless non-sequiturs, we’re knocking the oversexed bastard out.” On waking, instead of being jittery and smiling with all my teeth I’ll have surprisingly clear vision and a calm yet determined sense of purpose. You know, like that moment when you’ve had a couple of drinks and you feel amazing and conversations are awesome and no one has quite picked up on the fact that you have a light buzz on.

I approve of this recent science in the way that someone tells you that they’ve just read a book or seen a band that you still fanboy over. Tell us of your own experiments in the comments!

Grant Spencer

Grant Spencer is a psychologist in private practice who wanted to be a writer who wanted to be a rock singer. He has a BA in Creative Writing and Literature, and continues to write poetry intermittently in order to avoid the panic over running his own business.

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