How Coffee Naps Really Work

Why everyone should start taking coffee naps

If you aren't familiar with the art of the coffee nap, it's time to make up for lost time and channel your inner college kid. Coffee naps consist of drinking a caffeinated beverage immediately before taking a quick nap.

It may sound counterintuitive, but there's science to this art form. Though it varies from person to person, coffee can take about 20 minutes to kick in, Vox says. By napping during that time, you're getting extra rest while you wait for the coffee to start working. But that's just a bonus.

The real power of the coffee nap comes from the way your brain shuts down during sleep and how that affects caffeine absorption. Napping reduces a chemical compound called adenosine, which causes drowsiness. Adenosine builds up during the day with brain activity, and sleeping helps reduce it. While the chemical dissipates from certain brain receptors during sleep, caffeine, a "similarly shaped molecule," can slip into the recently vacated receptors, Vox explains. Caffeine then blocks the receptors from accumulating further adenosine, and you ward off drowsiness.

Caffeine competes with adenosine while you're awake, which is how a cup of joe can help even without a nap. But napping, and the resulting departure of adenosine, makes it much easier for the caffeine to work its magic.

To take a proper coffee nap, it's important to drink coffee quickly, shut your eyes quickly and sleep only for a maximum of 20 minutes. If you can't fall asleep on cue, Vox says that even some light rest or half sleep will still work to your advantage.

For a visual explanation, check out Vox's video about coffee naps here: