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Boost mental alertness with a caffeine-nap combo

If you’re thinking that sounds like a complete oxymoron, the truth is, it works.

Researchers have found that quickly drinking a cup of coffee and then taking a short 20 minute nap boosts cognitive alertness more than either alone.

That’s because while coffee leads to increased alertness by increasing the rate of neuronal firing, it takes around 20 minutes for the effect of the caffeine to kick in. So while you are waiting for that cognitive boost, take a nap!

Short napping of 20 minutes or less will boost cognitive performance by up to 40% with the effect lasting several hours.

So how does it work? Caffeine competes with adenosine , a byproduct of brain activity for certain receptors in our brain. When we have a high enough level of adenosine, by plugging those receptors it slows down the rate of neuronal firing and prepares us for sleep. The process of sleep removes adenosine from those receptors. But that short nap is just long enough for sufficient adenosine receptors to be cleared and ready to accept the caffeine instead.

Which is why although coffee will often keep us awake because of its long half life of six hours,, it’s delayed onset of effect means the pre-nap coffee has no impact on the short sleep.

But don’t just take my word for it. Why not try it yourself.

Got a long boring afternoon meeting coming up? That’s the perfect time to give the coffee-nap combo a whirl first and see just how more awake and alert you are.

Getting more productive starts with priming your brain for best performance.

Refs:
Vox http://www.vox.com/2014/8/28/6074177/coffee-naps-caffeine-science

Hayashi, Mitsuo et al. The alerting effects of caffeine, bright light and face washing after a short daytime nap Clinical Neurophysiology , Volume 114 , Issue 12 , 2268 – 2278

Bonnet MH1, Arand DL.
The use of prophylactic naps and caffeine to maintain performance during a continuous operation. Ergonomics. 1994 Jun;37(6):1009-20.

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