Are you a night shift worker? Feel less tired with a ‘caff-nap’

You probably already knew that a strong cup of coffee and a quick catnap helps you stay alert during a late-hour grind (or just, ever). But what you might not have realised is that drinking coffee before you bunker down could help you avoid post-sleep grogginess.

University of South Australia (UniSA) researchers have found that downing a coffee just before a nap can improve attention and reduce sleep inertia.

‘By drinking a coffee before taking a nap, shift workers can gain the benefits of a 20- to 30-minute nap then the perk of the caffeine when they wake. It’s a win-win,’ explains Lead Researcher, Dr Stephanie Centofanti from UniSA Online and the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at UniSA.

Good news for the 1.4 million Australians employed in shift work and 200,000 who are regularly working evening shifts.

Shift workers are often chronically sleep-deprived thanks to disrupted and irregular sleep patterns, so power naps and caffeine have always been high on their needs list. But there are disadvantages to both, says Dr Centofanti. 

‘Many workers nap during a night shift because they get so tired. But the downside is that they can experience ‘sleep inertia’ – that grogginess you have just after you wake up – and this can impair their performance and mood for up to an hour after their nap,’ she says. 

‘Caffeine is also used by many people to stay awake and alert. But again, if you have too much coffee it can harm your overall sleep and health. And, if you use it to perk you up after a nap, it can take a good 20 to 30 minutes to kick in, so there’s a significant time delay before you feel the desired effect.’

A ‘caff nap’ allows you to get some much-needed shut-eye, before the hit of caffeine kicks in to wake you up, bright and bushy-tailed.

The small pilot study by UniSA tested the impact of 200mg of caffeine (equivalent to one to two regular cups of coffee) consumed by participants just before a 30-minute nap at 3am. 

Participants who took a ‘caffeine-nap’ showed marked improvements in both performance and alertness, when compared to a placebo group who passed on the coffee.

Researchers will now look to test the theory on more people, but whether you’re a shift worker or just a strong advocate for midday naps, it might be worth a shot.

Want more tips for getting a better night’s rest? Check out the article here.

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