Coffee vs Naps: Who’s the Winner?
You’ve been working all day. Ticking off projects on the “to-do list.” Feeling like a super achiever - and then it happens, 3pm hits.
Work suddenly gets 10x harder and you feel like you’re suddenly spirit uphill with a parachute on your back.
You’ve hit the classic afternoon slump.
What comes next is an age old dilemma, should you down some magical supercharging brown liquid in the tank or recharge the battery?
And if you, like the rest of us, have been slapped in the face by the 3pm slump - you invariably thought to yourself - is it better to drink coffee or have a nap?
In this article, we take a dive into the high performers dilemma by breaking down why and when to nap vs drink coffee!
When and Why Napping is Better than Coffee
So you’ve hit a wall. Maybe you need a mental break from your work, but maybe you can take that to the next level by taking a nap to truly recharge the batteries.
Do Naps Really Work?
In short, absolutely yes.
Research has shown naps to be extremely effective in improving alertness and cognitive abilities - reportedly even more effective than 200mg of caffeine (1).
In fact, researchers have even found that a 90 minute nap can provide the same cognitive benefits of 8 hours of sleep (2)
If you’re a busy high performer, you likely just laughed at the concept of taking a 90 minute break in the middle of your day. While this could be the argument for a cup of strong coffee, we shouldn’t discount naps just yet.
Researchers have coined the term “power napping” for a nap between 10-30 minutes which, despite not getting a full sleep cycle, still packs a lot of benefits.
Here’s what that looks like:
10 Minute Nap: Immediate increase in alertness and cognitive performance for the next three hours.
20 Minute Nap: Considered the perfect nap length, proven to increase alertness, performance, and mood.
30 Minute Nap: Potentially extended benefits, but more likely a trigger of a slow wave sleep that is accompanied by a sense of sleep interia that leaves you disoriented, groggy, and potentially more tired than before.
So while you’ll often hear people hate on naps by saying that they “just leave them more tired” - they’re not wrong. Furthermore, taking a nap outside of an optimal time period of your circadian rhythm (between 1-3pm for most people) can reduce your sleep quality and latency later than night.
A poorly timed nap is like playing Russian Roulette with your energy. It might be great. It might be awful.
So while plenty of research supports taking naps to maximize your energy, it takes a commitment to either carve out 90 minutes from your day or stay disciplined with only 20 minutes.
When Coffee is Better than Napping
Is coffee better than napping? Well if you’re asking our intensely biased opinion - than yes. Specifically a strong, highly caffeinated, smooth and rich robusta bean coffee.
But what’s the research say?
Well for starters, it’s important to address that many high performers just simply can’t carve a nap into their schedule.
Even if you wanted to get in the coveted 20 minute nap, for many people - putting aside your work and slowing down your mind to get into a sleep slate can be challenging. Often as you take a break to slow down, you’ll have a rush of sudden ideas, to-dos, and various other thoughts - that, while productive, don’t let you slow down and nap.
In addition to bringing a wide variety of health benefits from improving gut health or neuro-protective elements, we largely know coffee for its undeniable role of kick starting our energy.
In fact, the same study we mentioned above also reported that naps are better than caffeine also reported that people felt better and didn’t report any of the grogginess that nappers did.
So while a nap could support your performance, coffee is going to leave you feeling better.
Your body loves coffee.
Saying that, similar to naps - caffeine later in the day can affect the sleep quality of a lot of people. The speed of your caffeine metabolism is defined by a specific gene (5), but even though you might be a “fast caffeine metabolizer” a cup of strong coffee later in the day can decrease your sleep quality.
The greatest antidote to this is exercise.
If you workout in the evening or afternoon, your caffeine clearance will be much higher - completely justifying that cup of joe.
This, combined with the physical effects of caffeine, makes a strong cup of coffee in the afternoon a perfect performance tool for the high performer who’s getting after it in the afternoon.
While coffee might not have the cognitive performance benefits of naps, combining your afternoon cup of coffee with a nootropic supplement like Exceed could be the ultimate solution to finish your day strong.
Coffee Naps: Optimizing with Both
High performers are always looking for ways to optimize their performance.
While naps and coffee can both be considered valuable for fueling your afternoon performance, naps AND coffee can be the ultimate combo to winning your afternoon.
Often dubbed “coffee naps” - this combination is when you drink a cup of coffee immediately before going to sleep for a nap (6,7). Waking up ideally 20 minutes later means that you’ll have the combinative benefits of a nap and the coffee starts to kick in - leaving you ready to kick ass.
Researchers vouch for this too.
Studies have shown that coffee naps give you all the benefits of napping, but with coffee eliminate the post-napping fog and grogginess. Furthermore, studies have suggested these naps were more effective in boosting cognitive performance than just regular naps.
So while the research shows there's different benefits for both naps and coffee, we’re undeniably on team coffee. Especially a strong, smooth, full flavoured cup of coffee.
Hope this gives you some insight into the age old question of coffee vs naps, and more importantly, lets you smash your afternoons!