The Art of the Coffee Nap

Wednesday, 16 October, 2019

The Art of the Coffee Nap, or ‘Nappuccino’

In his 2018 productivity-hacking book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Daniel Pink reveals that a nap can change your life. Pink said, "after a few months of experimenting with twenty-minute afternoon naps, I've converted". I’m already a big believer in the feel-good power of naps, but for the sceptics, here’s what science has to say…

The body naturally hits a low point in the afternoon, typically between 2–3pm. If you find your body fighting consciousness at this time of day, you’re not alone! This is not just a post-lunch slump or afternoon exhaustion – it’s built into your circadian rhythm. You tend not to notice the other slump because it generally happens at 3am when most of us are already asleep.

Time to hit snooze

The best way to counter this daily slump is to take a 10-20-minute nap. And before you scoff at what your boss might think if you slink away for a snooze, here’s what the research says:

  • workplace sleepiness and drowsy employees cost the average-sized Fortune 500 company around $80 million (slightly more than R1 billion) every year 
  • our neural pathways slow down when we’re sleepy, which means it's tougher to evaluate problems and make good decisions
  • a lack of sleep can negatively influence metabolism and decrease insulin sensitivity
  • daily naps can reduce blood pressure, improve immunity, and even lower your chances of dying from heart disease
  • sleep improves learning, memory, and creative thinking
  • napping makes people more effective problem solvers.

The art of the coffee nap

So why is it called the ‘nappuccino’ you might be wondering? Oddly enough, the experts encourage you to drink a cup of coffee right before your afternoon nap. It typically takes 25 minutes for the caffeine effects to kick in, so you should theoretically wake up more alert, refreshed and focused than you would’ve without the coffee.

The caffeine-plus-nap strategy only works if you keep the nap short – 20 minutes at most. You don’t want to enter the deeper stages of sleep and then wake up feeling worse than before. According to Jim Horne, a sleep researcher and professor emeritus of psychophysiology at Loughborough University in the UK, “a 20-minute nap can make up for one hour of lost sleep”. After 20 minutes, you should wake up feeling revived and ready for anything. 

In the words of Harvard Medical School, “the well-timed nap can make you more productive at work and at home.

Taking the perfect nap

If you really want to make the most of those 20 minutes, make sure you create a peaceful environment. Turn off your phone notifications and embrace the silence. Make the room a little darker if you can, and focus on your breathing. Drink your coffee in the peace and quiet, set a timer for when you want to wake up, and enjoy your nappuccino!

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