When you have a lot of work to do, you may be tempted to suck it up and try to power through and crank it all out as quickly as possible. But eventually, your eyelids start feeling heavy. Your concentration shatters as you drift in between sleep and zombie-like alertness—which isn’t exactly the best frame of mind to be in when you’re trying to get things done.
Working around the clock doesn’t actually correlate with productivity the way you might think. In fact, studies show that our productivity takes a serious hit after we log 50 hours in any given workweek. So when Elon Musk claims he puts in 100 hours every week, he’s either lying or he’s admitting that he’s not from this planet.
Next time your eyes are beginning to close in the middle of the day when you’re tackling a huge project, instead of trying to work through it, you may be better off taking a nap. Not just any kind of nap, mind you. A coffee nap.
OK, so what’s a coffee nap?
When you’re tired while you’re working, you have a couple of options. You can continue to struggle to keep your eyes open while sipping on a cup of coffee or another caffeine-laden beverage. You can take a break and lie down on the couch. Or you can have the best of both worlds, slamming a cup of coffee before taking a 15- or 20-minute nap.
As you might have guessed, the third option is a coffee nap. Contrary to what you might think, when you drink a cup of coffee, the caffeine doesn’t kick in right away. It takes—you guessed it—about 20 minutes for your body to respond to the stimulant.
Worried about not being jolted awake once the caffeine hits you? Set an alarm and you’ll wake right up when the time comes. You’ll be refreshed and ready to dive back into that important project.
Come on. Does a coffee nap really work?
Nope, this isn’t a productivity hack of some eccentric tech guru. Science says coffee naps actually work.
Here’s why: There’s a molecule called adenosine that’s a byproduct of brain activity. The longer you’re actively engaged in your work, the more adenosine collects in your brain. This is why we often feel exhausted when we leave the office after a day of hard work—our neurons slow down and we become lethargic.
It turns out that caffeine blocks adenosine from latching onto receptors in the brain, thereby preventing us from feeling tired. Couple that with the fact that some shuteye naturally rids adenosine from our brains, and you can begin to see how coffee naps essentially kill two birds with one stone.
But what if I’m terrible at taking naps?
Not to worry. Studies show that falling half-asleep or even just resting can often have the same effect as an off-to-dreamland nap.
Still, while it’s nice to know you can fake it until you make it, it’s probably safe to say that actually snoozing is more desirable than trying to nap and not being able to. WebMD offers some tips on how to take the ever-elusive power nap:
- Use a blanket. You won’t be able to doze off if you’re shivering.
- Nap in a dark room. Falling asleep is much harder to do if fluorescent lights are beaming into your face.
- Late mornings or early afternoons work best. If you push off your nap for too long, you could have trouble falling asleep that night—which could hurt your productivity the next day.
The next time you’re exhausted and you’re trying to crank out some work, give a coffee nap a try. You can’t reach your full potential and produce at your best levels when you’re tired. Studies show that, when we’re tired, we take fewer risks, fall back on old habits, and simply don’t perform as well as we do when we’re rested.
There’s no sense in going through the motions just to get something done when you’re operating on fumes. Chances are you’ll do shoddy work which you’ll just have to update in the future. If you want to reach peak productivity, you can’t waste your time doing the same tasks multiple times when you could otherwise wrap them up in a single sitting.
So what are you waiting for? The coffee is brewing. It’s time to close your eyes and drift off.