Caffeine is our age-old companion when the going gets tough at work.
Whether we need a little pick-me-up after the post-lunch slump or have to amp up those energy levels ahead of a three-hour meeting, a perfectly brewed flat white may well be the hero of the moment.
However, the timing of this office rite is key, and there’s an extra step we could all be taking that would really maximise on caffeine’s ever-welcome hit.
According to sleep and wellbeing expert Professor Chin Moi Chow of the University of Sydney, we need to be taking “coffee naps” in order to make the most of our drinks fix.
“When you drink a coffee, the caffeine stays in the stomach for a while before moving to the small intestine,” writes Prof. Chow, in a piece for The Conversation. “It is from here that caffeine is absorbed and distributed throughout the body. This process, from drinking to absorption, takes 45 minutes.
“But caffeine’s alerting effect kicks in sooner, about 30 minutes after drinking. So, drinking a coffee just before a short nap of less than 15 minutes doesn’t affect the nap as your body hasn’t yet experienced the caffeine hit.”
So far, so good: but how does napping actually enhance the effect of caffeine?
“Once you wake up from your nap, not only do you experience the hit, your body feels the effects of the caffeine hours later,” explains Prof. Chow. “It is this caffeine hit after you wake up and the “long tail” of caffeine in your body that helps you power through the day.”
If you're still feeling sceptical about the benefits of this so-called coffee nap, consider the evidence.
Prof Chow points to a 1997 study, where 12 sleep-deprived people drank the equivalent of one large cup of brewed coffee and five minutes later had the chance to nap for 15 minutes. They then did some driving tests in a simulator to check their alertness.
Although drinking a coffee without a nap helped their driving performance, combining caffeine with a nap improved it even further. People who took a coffee nap were less likely to drift out of their lanes on a two hour monotonous simulated drive, compared to when they just drank a coffee, or when they had a decaffeinated coffee.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the timing of a coffee nap is critical. Wait too long, and you’ll end up sleeping after the caffeine hit, not before it, which will have an adverse effect on both your sleep and your performance.
The upshot? Have a quick snooze of 15 minutes after drinking your coffee to reap the rewards of the coffee nap.
Quite how you intend to sneak in this sleep at work is another matter. Book out the boardroom, perhaps? Take a prolonged bathroom trip? However you wrangle it, the evidence is there: coffee naps work.
Now, if you’ll s’cuse us, we’re off to brew up some good stuff – eye-mask in tow...