Here’s the actual truth: I took a nap to prepare myself for this article. Because, research! I’m a napping virtuoso. I’ve napped regularly for at least the past ten years, if not longer. It’s sort of my thing. Which is why I was so excited to discover that today is National Napping Day. An opportunity to extol the scientific virtues of my favorite thing in the world? Yes, please. A chance to include a Seinfeld GIF? You’re welcome.
Being the nap expert that I am, I can tell you—there are all sorts of naps. There are 20-minute timed naps grabbed during a lunch break during a particularly exhausting day at work. There are hour-long naps which are relaxing in theory, but which always seem to leave you feeling groggy and disoriented for a good fifteen minutes after waking. There are lazy Sunday afternoon naps, and there are stress naps for when everything is overwhelming and the best way to deal with the ten thousand small tasks piled on your back is to put them off for a good half hour. (Don’t tell me I’m the only one who does this.)
Really, though, the only nap you’ll need in your life is the uber-scientific Caffeine Power Nap. Yeah, it has a name, because I just gave it one. The Caffeine Power Nap is a combination of two different scientific studies. The first, a 1995 study from NASA comparing alertness among trans-Pacific airline pilots, showed that the ideal nap length is 26 minutes. NASA’s power nap has been shown to improve performance by 34% and alertness by 54%.
Sounds great, right? Add in caffeine and naptime gets even sweeter: in 2007, the UK’s Loughborough University found that a 15-minute nap immediately following the consumption of a caffeinated beverage improved the alertness of tired drivers better than just caffeine or just a nap on its own. The reason for this has to do with brain chemistry. Sleepiness is caused by the buildup of adenosine in your brain—a buildup that’s cleared out when you get a little bit of shut-eye. When that clear-out is timed with caffeine’s alertness-boosting affects, which reaches its peak around 30 minutes after consumption, you have yourself a turbo boost of wakefulness.
Which brings me back around to my original point: the Caffeine Power Nap. The mechanics of it are simple. You get yourself a cup of coffee, you drink it, and then you set your phone alarm for 26 minutes and go find a quiet place to rest your head. Sure, the exact configuration is unstudied, but two plus two should equal four, right? You can let me know when you wake up.