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Coffee naps are better than coffee or naps alone (vox.com)
470 points by dctoedt on Aug 28, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 161 comments



This is a well known practise in Spain. I com from Spain and I have always seen my family (parents and grandparents) drinking coffee after lunch and, then, doing a nap on the couch. Usually, we sit on the couch, take the coffee together and then every person takes a newspaper or magazine and after a few minutes of pseudo-reading everybody is sleeping or in a state of deep relaxation. We sleep for 20 minutes. That's all. I guess this is very common in Spain.

This works well because we often take lunch at home. But, now that I have lunch at the office, I do the same. I have a 1 hour pause. The first half hour I have lunch, then I take the coffee and I go to the office to sleep on the floor, on a very thin mattress. If my brain is too active, I listen to a foreign radio station with my iPhone. I like to listen to ICI Radio Canada (in French). When I have lunch here, they broadcast the morning news and commentary. The news are about stuff happening in Quebec. It is interesting enough for me to forget the work stuff, and dull enough to induce me into a deeper relaxation state, which allows me to fall sleep fast. Being the broadcast in a foreing language, also helps to fall sleep. I often dream during this 20-30 minutes naps.

An interesting detail is that I had to learn this habit. I remember being a child and being pissed off because I wasn't allowed to make noise after lunch. Now, that I'm a father, the roles are changing and I'm the one sleeping after lunch.

By the way, at night, in order to fall sleep, I never take phones, tablets or computers to my bedroom. Instead, I take a shortwave radio and I tune the BBC world service news (fortunately, in Spain we can hear the broadcast directed to Africa). I put a 30 minutes timer on the radio and I almost never hear it stopping, because I fall sleep before. The day that the BBC will shut the SW broadcast, I guess I will take a bluetooth headset or speaker to my bedroom, but not the iPhone. It is very important to avoid computers in the bedroom.


As a spaniard myself, I can confirm this is an accurate description of what siesta looks like on most cases. Short nap on the couch after a coffee, for those who take lunch at home, or just on the weekends otherwise.


hmm.. i believe this is pretty the same in Greece, at least during weekends, holidays and work-free days.

In every lunch-gathering with close relatives, or close friends, at least one or two person take a short nap on the couch after the lunch, while the rest are having a relaxed and low voice chat. Usually the persons who fall asleep are males.


My mothers and sisters sleep too (Spain). But I remember that when I was I child, at my grandfather's house (my granny died before I was born), it was the men that slept because the women were busy in the kitchen doing the washing up. Here I'm talking about big family lunches. Thus, men could sleep because of the macho culture. Fortunately, this changed in one generation, at least in my family. We all clean everything up together and go to have coffe afterwards.


wow, how does anyone get anything done in that country! Compare it to the asian countries that work 16 hour days....


>how does anyone get anything done in that country!

By not confusing actually doing work with being kept busy for 16 hours to please the "company" / "boss".

Plus, it's not like this happens everytime and for everyone. People in Greece work longer hours than most of Europeans.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/05/16...


Napping is actually a big part of the culture. You'll see many people catching naps on trains, buses, and other public places, even while standing up.

Japan has its own word "inemuri" for the practice of sleeping on the job, which is sometimes even faked to make it look like they're working hard. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inemuri

Recently this practice has become more accepted company policy. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2014/06/07/editorials/po...


>Japan has its own word "inemuri" for the practice of sleeping on the job, which is sometimes even faked to make it look like they're working hard.

Huh. Definitely not a part of American work culture - it's likely you'll wake up with a pink slip taped to your face.


I think that's actually more optimal. After lunch I'm usually brain dead for around one hour or so and I don't really get much done.

I could as well take a nap and then get back to work with renewed energy.


People work later in the (cooler) evening.

Given the right architecture (high ceiling, verandah, stone walls) a shift in work day like this can offset high temperatures without using huge amounts of electricity for air conditioning.

PS: Judging by the Chinese overseas students I meet I think 16 hour work days may become a memory in a generation or two.


Napping is quite common in China and Taiwan at the work place and at school. People are overworked though.


They don't. Spain and Greece are both bankrupt or nearly so.


This comment is very disrespectful. Spaniards work hard. That's not the problem. The problem is bad management of public affairs due to complex causes, being the most recent one a 40 year long dictatorship where the political class used the state for its own benefit. That no relationship whatsoever with naps or coffee, which is the subject we are discussing now.


I should add that, during siesta, many people fall sleep in front of the TV. In July, the Tour de France is perfect for that, due to the beautiful scenery and the flow of the race.


This is so so so common. Everybody watches the Tour de France is Spain because it is such a good sleep-inducer. So real.


The English invented cricket for that...


I can attest this. For the rest of the year documentaries make the trick as well.


I hope advertisers don't discover this fact!


In Britain its a cup of tea and F1, snooker or darts.


I was an avid napper back at college and thoroughly employed the coffee nap technique. Now I'm in the workforce, but my body is still yearning for naps at work. I find myself drifting off here and there, but never fully commit.

I'm afraid to take a full nap at work due to how it may look. Do you find yourself being judged for taking naps at work?


You can take surprisingly good naps sitting in a toilet cubicle - I did so for many months at Accenture and never had a problem. It energised me and enabled me to do better work the rest of the time.


I thought I was the only one weird enough person in the world to actually nap in a toilet. I can say a lot of good things about my company work culture, but unfortunately, naps in the middle of the work day are frowned upon there.


It's a shame that napping is so often frowned upon in hard-working–America culture. It seems to me a rather ignorant tradition. We look everywhere for ways to boost office productivity, yet napping remains an anathema.


Do you have a car? Go in your car!

Don't have a car? Go in a park!

Generally, you can take a nap fine in the day. Bring a book and sleep with the book on your chest. Nobody is going to disturb someone that fell asleep reading a book.


Having a bunch of people in a state like that all together would make for a curious picture. I usually find asian languages better to fall asleep to, there's just something in the way they talk that just does it for me. I'm taking french classes now, so my inner student would try to comprehend what's being said and I'd never fall asleep with that language.


I wish I was able to take naps. Do people can really fall asleep on command just like that when they have some spare minutes in their day? Shit, even when I am sleep deprived, I can barely fall asleep in my own bed, sometimes it literally take me hours.

When I manage to take a nap it's usually involuntary by falling asleep in front of the TV.


It just takes practice. For a nap, it helps to unwind quickly by focusing on deep breathing and allowing your mind to wander.

During a nap you're not trying to lose consciousness as if you're "totally asleep" either. It's almost like you're hypnotizing yourself into a deep state of relaxation. A pair of sunglasses or sleep mask can also help to reduce any daytime light to make it easier.

Practice it for a year, you'll be an expert after that and have a highly valuable skill.

This guy has all you could ever hope to know on becoming a Master of Sleep: http://www.supermemo.com/articles/sleep.htm


I agree, it takes practice. I can't let my mind wander though. If I want to take a nap in the middle of the day I have to consciously visualize something. The visualization that has worked best for me over the last year has been sitting in my childhood home, assembling the tail section of a scale model Su-24. The end product looks a lot like this one: http://paperwings.orgfree.com/su24/index.htm (except I never finish it, just doze off)

The sleep is worth the practice :)


Well there is a right and wrong way to let you mind wander. The right way is what is taught in Mindfulness meditation. It requires hard training, and I'm not very good at it (yet I hope).

The "trick" is to let you mind wander without intentionally thinking about anything, but just letting thoughts float on by without getting attached to any one of them. Just notice all the different things your mind is bringing up, and let it happen, without grabbing hold of any one thought.

My big problem is that I have a strong inner voice that is explaining or narrating almost all that I do. This voice if focusing my thoughts, so I need to stop talking inside my head for this to work. I kind of just need to shut up and watch my thoughts instead :)


Just a note: that inner voice is also a thought. A strongly habituated one, certainly, but still just a thought. You don't need to stop 'talking', just take a step back, so to speak, and watch that voice and it will gradually dissolve on its own (over time, it will get less demanding on your attention).


This has sometimes worked for me when I'm trying to fall asleep. When I'm successful, it's like I'm letting go of the narrative of my own thoughts, and instead just seeing it unfold. Eventually, I start to feel as if the thoughts are drifting into a dream, as I start to feel engulfed in my thoughts rather than just observing them unfold.


> I can't let my mind wander though

I force myself to. I just simulate what happens when I really start falling asleep. I create random thoughts and I chain them as fast as possible.

Example:

If I break the ice with my hammer the calendar will fall on monday, but I have to escape from a huge mountain today, etc... Works super well for me. If I really need to sleep I'll use that technique, if I'm not sleepy I can do that for like 20 minutes, I have to focus not to think about something and just think about those random and nonsense stuff and I will fall asleep eventually.


When I finally manage to fall asleep, I can't remember the next day how I did it.

I've noticed it is often preceded by having some thought, then 5 seconds later realizing that the thought I just had makes absolutely no sense. I guess that's the reality testing switching off.


For me it was refinement. I was always an easy sleeper (> 3min i could be a sleep). But when stress piled on, it made my mind more of a clutter. So I started picturing a black background and drawing a number 1. But i had to draw the most perfect 1 I could visualize. Serifs, font what ever you want, just perfect. I would time it to my breathing. So 1 would be done in one breath (inhale and exhale). Then 2, then 3 etc.

The catch? if i had stray thoughts, i would have to start back at 1. I never get that far (101). But i always managed to clear my mind and fall asleep.

After reading about other people's techniques, it seems i stumbled on things like breathing and visualization.


> It just takes practice.

In the same way pole jumping without arms or legs "just takes practice".


You could try not watching TV, using a laptop, or reading in bed.

For me, when I stopped watching TV and doing things on my laptop from my bed, I very quickly noticed an improvement in how quickly I fell asleep.

Another big one is exercise. I notice that when I exercise I have a much easier time falling asleep than on days that I don't, I now try to exercise every day.

I also got older over the past few years, which in and of itself could explain things, so, I suggest experimenting to find what works best for you.

Edit: typo.


This. A bed should serve for only two purposes; sleeping and we all know the other.

Watching TV, laptops, reading, etc... do not train your brain that the bed is for sleeping. Now I lay in bed for a nap and I will typically zonk out in a couple of minutes.


I find that reading fiction in bed is a great way to fall asleep. Nothing technical or business related, though, that's a guarantee of a short and poor sleep.


For me reading fiction in bed is a great way to fall asleep... the next day at work. I lost countless hours of sleep at night and productivity during the day thanks to people like HN's own cstross, who absolutely, positively have to create captivating, entertaining and addicting pieces of writing...


Have you tried 'paradoxical intention'? It's basically convincing yourself that the goal is to stay awake, instead of falling asleep. It gets rid of some of the performance anxiety surrounding falling asleep, and tends to force you to focus on something else (keeping awake). It has helped me in the past!


Aha! I know what you mean - I have noticed such situations several times.


Ditto this. My wife can nap no problem. I might nap every couple months, and its basically a disrupted sleep and not a nap. I wake up feeling terrible; groggy, mild headache, irritable. I'd have been better off not napping as it inevitably comes when I've got so much to do and no energy and that "if I have a quick nap I'll feel refreshed and be ready to work!" Nope!


I'm the same way -- every once in a while I'll fall asleep on a weekend around mid afternoon, and sometimes wake up 4 hours later. Then I really feel like yuck for another hour. And I can't fall asleep easily that night either (usually I don't have a problem falling asleep, just not getting interrupted in the middle by the dog wanting to get let out).


4 hours of sleep is not a nap. The refreshing feeling you get after a nap is completely different from the one you get when you've gone into deep sleep.


I'm in the exact same situation. If I nap for more than ten minutes I feel awful. I assume my body doesn't know how to deal with naps since I rarely take one.


How long are you napping for?


Afaik it's an illusion.

When I'm not sleeping alone, the other people tell me I'm snoring after 10min lying around. But I cant remember falling asleep, snoring OR waking up. Just That I had my eyes closed and tried to sleep.

So I guess, I cant check for my self that I'm asleep...


I've had the same experience when sleep-deprived (which is really the only condition in which I can nap). I'll grab a couch at work and recline and close my eyes. What follows is perceived as a relatively brief period -- twenty minutes or so -- of being somewhat abstracted from reality, with my mind operating in that semi-dreamlike state you sometimes get when waking up slowly. Then I'll open my eyes, slightly fuzzy but less tired, and go back to my desk to find that 60-90 minutes have passed. (This is almost always in the context of work-related sleep deprivation, like being in a crunch on a project or up late because of a crisis, so I've never gotten any guff over it; in any case, it happens very rarely.)

What's interesting is that I definitely feel like I'm perceiving the world with some continuity during that time -- I'll hear coworkers' conversations, people walking around, etc. -- but apparently I miss things like people coming up and checking if I'm awake, or even the time someone laid my hoodie over me as an improvised blanket.

If I sleep any longer than 90 minutes or so, I just perceive it the same way I do sleeping at night.

The brain is a strange contraption, isn't it?


When I'm sleeping for >60 minutes, with those states of deep sleep, I really feel like I'm sleeping. But not when I'm just lay on the couch for 20 minutes.


> * Do people can really fall asleep on command just like that when they have some spare minutes in their day?*

It depends on the time of day. I can't exactly fall asleep on command, but I'll find myself longing for a nap in the afternoon, usually around 2 or 3. I can fall asleep pretty quickly then, and usually I'll wake up about 20 minutes later.


I can't nap, but just laying down for 20 minutes with my eyes closed in a quiet room gives me a huge energy boost.


Isn't that exactly what a nap is?

Does your awareness reduce? It's hard to notice a change in awareness. Sometimes I notice a transition from haziness to attention when a sound draws my attention. My understanding is that the haziness is a form of sleeping and is exactly what a nap is meant to be. If you fall into a deeper sleep you will get some of the side effects others talk about -- grogginess etc. The length and depth of sleep is related, so I thought that's why you need to be careful to only nap for short periods of time.


When I nap, even for 20m, I dream. Grogginess comes if I take longer than 20 minutes or so - although if I time it right, I can hit a non grogginess event again after 1.5 hiurs. Sleep cycles, I guess


Same here,somebody have an explanation?


You actually fell asleep, but didn't enter a deep enough sleep for you to actually notice it. You can't tell if you're in NREM1 sleep.


I used to do it on my lunches in my car. Load up an mp3 I made from rainymood.com and some oscillating brown noise on simplynoise.com, put on a sleeping mask and a 45 minute alarm it was great. First few times I didn't sleep much but I did essentially meditate, later on I was sleeping within 10-15 mins.


Yes. If you lay still with your eyes closed and make sure your phone and internet stay quiet, you will fall asleep in 10 minutes or so.

That then leaves enough to get 10 minutes or so of sleep and get back up 20 minutes after starting your nap. Much longer than that and you risk not getting up for another few hours.

Much less than that and you won't get any rest.

And yes, this works perfectly well even without falling asleep. Just lay still for 20 minutes and let your mind wander without distractions or worrying about what you're thinking about. Congratulations, you've just meditated.


Sorry, but I can't do any of the things you list (fall asleep within 10 minutes whether I'm trying to fall asleep for a nap or to go to bed at night; let my mind wander and not get distracted; not worry).

I have a lot of anxiety, which I imagine is relatively common among the developer and tech community. Sleep and peacefulness does not come easily to me. I've tried taking naps at various points over the years, but haven't successfully taken one since I was about 12 or so. Sometimes I'll even lie in bed for 30, 40, 50 minutes to just try and take a short nap. Eventually I'll give up and wonder why I wasted all that time.

This will happen to me even if I'm extremely sleep deprived, and feel very physically and mentally exhausted.


Have you ever tried meditation/mindfulness? It sounds like it may help you learn to quiet your mind.


> Yes. If you lay still with your eyes closed and make sure your phone and internet stay quiet, you will fall asleep in 10 minutes or so.

Nope, well over an hour is my average. And that's at night in my bed after a full day work.


I've been there. Although every case is different, you may be successful with my approach. I observed that it is much more difficult for me to sleep when very tired, and that I'm awful at auto measuring the time to go to bed. So, I adopted a rigid 7h sleep schedule for a month. I added some exercise (swimming), to guarantee success. Worked like a charm. Nowadays I'm more flexible about the schedule, but vigilant as to whether I'm slipping.

I think the most important thing I did was defining that taking one hour to fall asleep was problematic and then tackling the problem methodically. Seeing a doctor about it was on my scope had I failed to solve the problem on my own.


Just lay still for 20 minutes and let your mind wander without distractions

Just. I've never been able to do that. I'm always thinking, even when I am exhausted. (Usually then, about how exhausted I am.)


My secret: short story podcasts. Engages my brain just enough to help turn off the competing thoughts. There really is something to that bedtime story thing!


This could be due to the momentum of thinking anxiously, or in a forced way in general, throughout the day. If you are able to think at a natural pace throughout the day, your thoughts will be calm, or at least, come to you at a natural pace, at bedtime / nap-time, too.


> I'm always thinking

Otherwise known as "lettings your mind wander". Just go with it, you don't have to not-think. It is perfectly fine to spend 20 minutes laying down and thinking.


And what's supposed to happen when it's an hour later and the mind is still wandering but not sleeping any more than originally?


Try unwandering it? Count from 1 upwards and restart every time your mind wanders off the counting.


Nothing much? You don't have to fall asleep to feel rested from taking an hour long break ...


Mildly interesting podcasts and audiobooks help me a lot.

Too interesting and you get wired. Too dull and your mind begins to wonder. Some work so well that it takes me several runs to listen completely.


What helps me a lot is listening to audiobooks I have already listened to. I find for example the Harry Potter audiobooks narrated by Stephen Fry comforting and relaxing.


I do the same thing - re-listen audiobooks. My favorites are Richard Dawkins and Stephen Fry.


Hah! I read technical stuff on Wikipedia for the same purpose.


I'm exactly the same, I find it very difficult to nap during the day even when sleep deprived. It takes me a long time to fall asleep.


Used to be similar for me.

Until I discovered deep meditation (http://www.amazon.com/Deep-Meditation-Pathway-Personal-Freed...). Summarized: Repeat a chant, such as 'I am' (or any phrase of your choosing) for about 5 minutes, focusing on what the chant-phrase sounds like in your mind.

With the phrase 'I am', you would try to feel the sounds 'A-Y-A-M' being pronounced in your mind, without ever vocalizing it.

Gets me napping within 5 minutes, wake up charged up for a massively productive session. I hope you'll give it a try sometime.


If I play solitaire on my phone, when tired, it does the trick. I find it's way better than other things, like watching TV or reading random websites or books.


The article says you don't actually have to fall asleep to feel the effects. Just lay in a half sleep/relaxed state for 20 minutes.


I found this by experience few years ago. It works. At first, I started with naps, and drinking coffee after. Accidentally I had few times coffee before nap, and noticed the difference.

But I don't recommend this kind of nap all the time - because after a while it's not that effective.

So, after years of napping (I'm an expert - I became so good at napping, that I can fall a sleep in 1-2 minutes, and wake up without alarm after 15-20 minutes), my advice would be: take a nap after lunch, between 1 and 3pm, without coffee before nap. Only in special situations, when you are under high pressure and lots of work, take "coffee nap" as they call it in the article.


> I can fall a sleep in 1-2 minutes, and wake up without alarm after 15-20 minutes

Any advice on how you were able to achieve this ability? I always try to take a quick nap but can never fall asleep fas t enough for it to be effective.


Two techniques from my experience:

- 'walk back' in your mind to center yourself away from forebrain activity and visual activity (this is a visualization technique)

- cover your back with something insulated and/or warm. The less your back is staying tensed against chill air, the more physically relaxed you can be. I have a Thinsulate-filled sleeping bag that I use like a throw for this as it reflects body heat better than a comforter. Sleeping on a sofa, up against the back cushions, and noticing how it was good for naps, was what alerted me to this one.


I noticed this when I started sleeping with my back against a body pillow. I wonder if it has anything to do with wanting to sleep with pressure around our bodies?


That's not universal. I've read that infants / small children tend to like sleeping while wrapped / confined. This adult: not so much. (Part of that is probably the Minuteman attitude I've adopted since becoming a single parent a couple of decades back. Anything which interfered with my ability to quickly respond to / protect my kids had to go.)

I do think it's the warmth. Part of our maintaining constant muscular tension is maintaining body heat. While we do seem to want to chill down slightly for sleep -- my observation, based on how often I'd nap on the bus and awaken sweaty, and I seem to recall reading something about that -- IME that tension does noticeably interfere with quickly getting to sleep.


Could you please expand on the "walk back" thing? Also, any links, books? Thanks.


Like I said, it's a visualization technique, and it works better if you have some experience with pushing your mental energies around. Practice in Wiccan grounding, centering and shielding helps (Google that or start with http://www.witchvox.com and start probing, I guess; I don't know of any instruction materials currently in print or online). This is my experience, so I describe it here in first-person...

When I close my eyes, almost immediately my visual memory lights up with a "day review" which is like a daydream but for being something which I can direct, using pretty much the same visualization mechanism I use for data/code/schematic structures when I'm designing, coding or debugging. I can feel that forebrain activity as a slight heat just behind my forehead. It's great for overview and casual entertainment when I can afford the time, but not when I need a quick nap and it's keeping me conscious.

I will the main weight of my awareness to recede from that frontal visualization viewplane, moving toward the back of my skull, deliberately dissociating from the visual activity, to where things feel like they're quieter and move slower. If, for motorcycling, where a less tightly-focused, more panoramic viewpoint is best for situational awareness, I take a half-step back, for quick napping I take several steps back.

You can forcefully imagine the footsteps if it helps establish the change of center; after awhile, that mental positioning becomes familiar enough to dispense with the imagined physical/aural sound-effects.

Sorry if it sounds all too Crafty or New-Age, but that's how I live.


I knew exactly what you meant when you said "walk back". I've never been able to describe that effect, but you've nailed it on the head. It took some practice to develop after I discovered on accident, but it is very effective.


it takes practise. Likely you try and take a nap a few times, it takes too long and so the next day you don't bother. But if you can get through that it gets easier over time. Your body learns that it's "time to go to sleep".

The other strategy is physical and mental exhaustion, for this I recommend starting a business and/or becoming a parent.


> The other strategy is physical and mental exhaustion

Sleep deprivation may make it easy to fall asleep fast, but then you won't wake up without alarm after 15-20 minutes.


When I started meditating I found it much easier to fall asleep quickly. The 'opening game' of most, if not all, mindfulness meditation is simply relaxing your body and preparing for the meditation. Turns out this is something you can get better at with practice; at least I did.

Pick up the Headspace app. You get several meditations for free and those should be enough to arm you with what you need to learn "speed relaxing".

https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app


I can at least say when I am habitually sleep deprived I find it easy to fall asleep on a whims notice.

If I get a proper 8-9 hours of sleep, I find it impossible to nap.

Maybe the insta-napping is only possible due to a more fundamental lack of sleep issue?


Breathe in a count of 2 and out a count of 1. Sleep with your mouth open, but breathe only through your nose. Remember that quiet resting with eyes shut is 80% as good as sleeping when it comes to naps.


Earplugs + couch at a quiet place (e.g. library). If it's too loud for even earplugs, Emancipator's "Soon It Will Be Cold Enough" album works for when I'm on a bus/subway


I don't sleep well at night. I never have. But, after lunch (and after perusing HN for a few minutes), I start feeling that dull sensation like my brain is trying to shut down. If, at that point, I get into a reasonably comfortable position (doesn't have to be lying down, just rest your head on a table or lean back in a chair with head supported), close my eyes and allow my thoughts to wander. In 5 to 15 minutes the world looks like a much better place.

I really think the key is closing your eyes. I've read (no citation available) that the vision system requires a huge amount of brain activity and that by shutting your eyes you can achieve a large sleep like win even if you don't sleep.


I have read this before. I do not understand how you can sleep for 20 minutes. It takes more than 15 minutes just to fall asleep.


Read this carefully: I used to think this way as well. This thinking lead me to the exact wrong strategy for naps.

There are many stages of sleep; stage 1 through 4, and REM sleep. These, it is hypothesized, have distinct physiological functions. Most importantly for this discussion, waking up out of each have very different effects.

Waking from stage 1 sleep makes you feel immediately refreshed, and people perform better immediately have tests of mental acuity. This is also true of REM sleep; additionally you often remember dreams.

Stage 2 is also good. A good 30 minutes afterwards, you will feel better rested, and your mental acuity will rise; for longer than from stage 1, but it is a delayed effect.

But if you wake up out of a deeper sleep cycle, you get 'sleep inertia.' Mental acuity plummets. You feel poorly rested and ill.

The problem:

The body is often not even aware that you are sleeping in stage 1 sleep. You are in a different physiological stage, but you may not have lost consciousness.

You usually are in this stage from minute 5 onto minute 10. And in stage two up to about 15-20 minutes. After that, you can fall into a deeper sleep; which waking up from is very problematic.

I used to set my alarm for 30 minutes. I'd way up, feel even more tired, and set my alarm for 30 minutes again. This was ruining my life.

---

tl;dr

Even if you don't lose consciousness, you can still be 'sleeping' and a nap of 20 minutes will greatly help you feel healthy and well rested.


I always had difficulty finding the correct amount of time to nap for where I would wake up feeling refreshed and not drowsy, until I read about Dali napping with a spoon in his hand. The idea is that you hold the spoon off the bed/couch so that as soon as you start to drop past stage 2, your hand releases the spoon, it falls to the floor and wakes you up.

I now do this combined with a caffeine nap (green tea) and it works perfectly. There's a point where I deep in my conscious I realize I'm dropping the item. As it hits the floor my eyes open, and I feel refreshed almost immediately afterwards. The time for me is about 25-27 minutes from laying down to the drop.


That's awesome!


I think I know what it feels like to actually sleep for 20-25 minutes. Yes, it is refreshing. I also know what it is to try sleep (and fail) for the same amount of time. I don't find it refreshing, it just pisses me off. Unfortunately this is very common for me. It depends on the exact circumstances, but saying that it usually takes a minimum of fifteen to twenty minutes to actually fall asleep might actually be reality for many people, me included.


That could definitely be true, but what I found was to seek a 'restful' state of physiology was much more helpful than to seek the loss of consciousness I had previously associated with sleep.

Insomnia and other things are very real, but in this case the problem was with what I felt was a good rest.


Certainly depends on how tired you are. I work at home, so I sleep around my own schedule as much as I want to and almost always feel rested. But when I am missing an hour or two of sleep (which a lot of people are, every damn day), I fall asleep in minutes given the opportunity in the middle of the day.


Not for everyone. For me, yes, at least 15 minutes, but my SO can often go out in less than 5. I never take naps for that reason, and she takes them frequently. Perhaps there's a correlation between the time it takes to fall asleep and the frequency of naps.


If it's that hard to fall asleep, then you don't need a nap. Problem solved. Depending on their job, diet, exercise, age, etc., some people just really really really really need a 10-15 minute nap in the early afternoon to get through the rest of the day. The need comes over you quickly, and you either do it or spend the rest of the day struggling to stay awake and focused on your work. I don't think anyone is suggesting that people who aren't actually tired take naps.


Would be true yet there is this thing called insomnia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insomnia


Depends on the person, so this isn't going to work for everyone. I can fall asleep in ~2 min. It's a curse when I need to stay awake.


I find just trying to sleep for twenty minutes can be rejuvenating enough for a powernap. I can't fall asleep on a whim either.


Especially since I think coffee for me is mostly a placebo. I know when I drink coffee I'm supposed to be more awake so there's no way I could take a nap after drinking one.


What is the tolerance level for naps in silicon valley companies (both big and small)? Does it depend on the role/position? Wouldn't they rather have all their employees down mugs of coffee instead of taking even a quick nap?


Is there any downside to doing this? It seems like there must be a reason why the adenosine signals that it's time to sleep - like your brain actually needs that rest to recuperate properly after activity. Does a "coffee nap" (or caffeine in general) lead to increased fatigue once the effects wear off?

Although I guess to some extent if you're going to ignore the sleep signal otherwise, there likely isn't much harm in feeling alert while doing so, except inasmuch as the alert feeling causes you to tax your brain more than you otherwise would.


Natural sleep cycles vary not just by person but also by age. There is some evidence that a small community with 0 to 70 year olds will always have someone awake. Which would seem like a likely survival adaptation. Which suggests sleep cycles may relate to more than just biological need.


I've read this before too, I cant remember where. Basically your 25-50 year old typically sleeps from about midnight to 8am. Teens and young adults typically sleep much later, with the "crack of dawn" not being uncommon and the elderly typically awake at the "crack of dawn".

Basically most preditors are active either just after dark, or in the late morning.

Teens are typically strong (a 13 year old male is as strong as your average adult female), alert and they have the best vision, and noise making in the night would keep predators and scavengers away. Evening predators likely weren't a great risk, but scavengers definitely would be an issue.

Adults are obviously the strongest and most alert, and are awake when the most dangerous animals are also awake: lions, tigers, hippos, etc.

The elderly are our weakest, their vision is poor and their alertness becomes questionable. However, there's theories we live so long after infertility sets in specifically for the reason they care for the young. Both infants and the elderly have surprisingly similar sleeping patterns. Predators are least active in the early mornings and so are most dangers. Insects and reptiles (venomous things) are least active in the coldest hours of the day, which is right around dawn.


That's a really good point. My body also insists that I should eat a ton of fatty foods whenever possible to store energy and ward off starvation, but it's probably safe to ignore that impulse. It's certainly conceivable that there are other natural triggers that no longer apply.


The Jawbone up is the BOMB of all bombs for taking naps. Put it in nap mode and it waits for you to fall asleep before setting the alarm. So you can get a proper nap without wondering whether you're taking too long to fall asleep, etc.

It can also attempt to time your nap based on your latest sleep patterns. No idea how effective this is.

I love this thing just for it's nap mode.


After a couple months of protracted late nights at a startup I worked for, I came up with an idea for a place which would offer by-the-hour nap+shower+coffee pods. You'd go in, pay $20 or whatever, have access to a shower and a bed, and at the end (or beginning) you'd get a coffee of your choice (if after, it would be ready for you when your nap was over).

I think this could do really well in Soma or the Financial District in SF. Just gotta enforce one-person-one-rule so that it doesnt become a place for prostitution.


So like a love hotel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_hotel), but sans coupling. Or like a capsule hotel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsule_hotel), but with attached shower.

Even on non-prime real-estate (which does that exist in SF?), I don't think you could hit your $20 price point with the amount of housekeeping needed for a bed and shower. Even if you could, after a week your staff might hate you. :-)


> So like a love hotel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_hotel), but sans coupling. Or like a capsule hotel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsule_hotel), but with attached shower.

To be fair, they say Japanese love hotels allow single guests (https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Japan#Love_hotels) and capsule hotels have showers (https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Japan#Capsule_hotels).

I don't doubt, though, that even in Japan there's a niche for specifically targeted establishments of the kind described by grandparent.


Capsule hotels don't usually have attached showers though do they? It's more of a communal thing, which maybe that would work just fine for what mmanfrin was thinking of. Though historically Americans aren't as accustomed to communal bathing (well except for gyms) as the Japanese.


There is a company called "Breather" offering this sort of service. You get a small meeting/lounge room for %15-25 per hour. See HN discussion and article from a few months ago.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7618818


I don't live in SF but I think this would be viable. I'd even use it when I was in town.

I think you'd also get customers from people who bike to work or workout at lunch but don't have access to a shower (assuming the location was good).


> ...it takes around 20 minutes for the caffeine to get through your gastrointestinal tract and bloodstream anyway.

This isn't really true, right? On an empty stomach a strong coffee seems to get me high as a kite in about two minutes.

I've been doing this coffee+nap thing for a long time. It definitely works for me. My trick for falling asleep reliably and quickly is listening to an audiobook.


There is a lot of it depends. On an empty stomach 20 minutes does seem a bit long.

However you're also conditioned to the feeling you expect coffee to provide, so the initial jolt of energy may have almost nothing to do with the actual caffeine and more to do with the thought of the caffeine.


How do you drink your coffee? If you sugar it, you're not dealing with just the caffeine.


I don't but how would sugar beat caffeine into the blood stream?


Absorption of some nutrients happens in the mouth and gums. Perhaps the poster is speculating that sugar (simple carbs?) molecules might be quickly absorbed into the bloodstream through the mouth and esophagus while caffeine has to be digested in the stomach?


I have read before that drinking coffee before a short nap is a good combination. It's nice to read that someone has actually tested it. I can't always do it at work but I have used this method at home and it works well. One other suggestion I follow is that I don't take short naps lying down. That encourages my body to go into a longer, deeper sleep. I nap sitting in a comfy chair, in a quiet, dim room if possible. It's very refreshing; I'm more alert and productive for the rest of the day.


This works well with other stimulants and other medications too. Take methylphenidate and an opioid, take a quick nap, wake up feeling fantastic.

It's also got emotional benefits. If you are feeling down, then simply waiting for the medicine to do its job can make things worse, as your mind goes in a negative spiral. Taking a nap can give you peace that you're just putting everything aside and going to concentrate on the warmth of the nap and a dream. And before you know it, bam - everything's perfect again.


Keep in mind that after 2-3 weeks of habitual coffee drinking, your body acclimates to the effects of caffeine and you no longer receive a performance benefit. At that point all drinking coffee does for you is ward off the effects of withdrawal and return you to baseline performance levels - until the effects wear off and withdrawal kicks in again, at which point your performance is below average.

Caffeine is best used strategically, which means not every day. Save it for days where you're feeling particularly low energy, or need a boost to tackle a problem you're not particularly excited about doing.

That said, the half-life of caffeine is around 6 hours, which means if you have a coffee at 3pm, at 3am you still have a quarter-cup's worth of caffeine in your system, preventing you from entering deep sleep. So even then I'd keep caffeine as a first-thing-in-the-morning type of deal.

Naps I'm a big fan of. I take one every day after lunch. The trick is to simply lay down and close your eyes for 20 minutes. Don't worry if you fall asleep or not - just give your eyes a rest. For the first few days/weeks, you might not fall asleep. But eventually your body grows accustomed to the ritual and it becomes easier to actually fall asleep at hat time.


I have found that a Provigil/Nuvigil nap works wonders. Take a Provigil and take a nap. When you wake up you'll be crisp morning-fresh.


I used to do similar before pulling all-nighters in college. I would take an adderall and go to sleep around 11pm, my normal bedtime, then after a 30 minute nap I'd be wide awake and ready to conquer whatever project I had been procrastinating on.


What is Provigil? (I am in Australia) Is it like dexedrine or something?


A prescription medicine for people with sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.


They prescribe modafinil for sleep apnea? I have apnea and I'm curious because I've never heard this. I've heard it is used for narcolepsy.


It's a brand name for modafinil.


I support the napping for productivity without having artificial stimulants (OK, natural organic drugs) involved.

The studies likely involved mostly habitual users rather than unindoctrinated subjects, but from the abstracts' documentation it is difficult to be sure. Perhaps the researchers did not recognize the distinction and just selected random participants, therefore likely to include mostly habitual users.

When I was a caffeine addict (habitual user) I could also sleep after ingestion.

In fact without a fix right before bedtime it was more difficult to get to sleep because nominal concentration level was unsatisfied, resulting more in agitation than identifiable craving. A nice hit would actually help me relax. I was not the only one who could relate to this as an indication of true addiction, where you need the substance just to be normal.

Complete withdrawal took a few weeks (of hellish tiredness, achiness, and irritability) but after this it was even easier to more alertly conduct high-stamina activities and out-perform my still-addicted colleagues without the toxic load on my system.

Sleep & nap much more productively without it after kicking the habit too.

Sure can write a lot better code when drug (addiction) free as well.

When I do feel it's necessary (never for marathon coding), a single cup of coffee (after I have already been awake 24hrs and need a little boost) naturally keeps my otherwise drug-free system awake for the next 24hrs easily which can be helpful for things like long-distance driving once or twice per year. As an addict I would have needed two or three times my nominal habitual doses to feel as alert on those same lonely roads.

To me coding does not benefit from this type of non-stop alertness, even if you are working to exhaustion, when tiredness truly comes a plain nap is better whether it is after 6hrs, 12hrs, 20hrs, whatever, then freshly go into another session, exahustion relieved.

Same with driving too, but if the schedule is too tight, a couple times a year will not make you a habitual user like everyday dosage does. I'd rather drive slow for long hours than exceed the speed limit, waste energy, and prematurely wear out my machinery.

YMMV [0] but just because everybody does caffeine won't make it good for you, especially in the long run.

[0] depending largely on body weight, metabolism, and dosage, and for driving, road speed


(from the article) "energy drinks are disgusting.."

I disagree. Monsters in particular I find delicious. (I try not to drink them often though... they tend to really hype me up then wear me out not long after).


I don't like monster but rockstar zero carb or sugar free does it for me. Also anything sugar free with erythritol as a sweetener is gross to me. It tastes way sweeter than sugar.

I wish I could acquire a taste for coffee because it seems like the healthiest way to get caffeine, but if I have to load it with sugar and cream it defeats the point.


I thought I invented this 5 years ago during a weeklong coding sprint before a live demo. I called it a red bull nap but otherwise it was exactly the same. They are amazing.


Hardest part for me is falling asleep in such a short period of time, especially during the day. When I have succeeded with these naps, it's been amazing.


This is definitely how siesta time goes in Southern Spain. It seemed an odd habbit when I was introduced to it but it definitely does the job.


I don't know if it's just me but, how the hell do you nap?! I tried once, and I was still wide awake when my alarm that was supposed to wake me up from my hour long nap went off. I'd have to be really drunk, or not have slept for days in order to nap. I don't understand how people just nap on queue, I feel like I'm missing a trick here :(


I have noticed this occasionally on weekends, when the luxury of a nap is more practical. I'll have a small late-morning coffee, feel cozy/sleepy, then nap briefly and wake up refreshed. Seemed crazy at the time. I'd guess you need to feel somewhat tired for this to work (and I am able to fall asleep quickly).


For those who have trouble falling asleep quickly I recommend good earplugs, a quiet place where you can nap undisturbed and a dark opaque towel or cloth with which you can cover your eyes and block light completely. Given that, there's little to prevent sleep once you've settled in.


Caffeine naps are my secret "crunch time" weapon. It's astounding how effective they are - it feels like a reboot. I wake up feeling like I've been out for 8 hours. The effect only lasts for a couple of hours post-nap, but it's often enough to get you over the hump.


I use this napping mp3. White noise for about 23 minutes followed by silence then animal sounds. It's fun give it a try. http://www.grelly.com/napping/Polynap5_23_minutes.mp3


I've done this many times. It's really quite refreshing. I made a habit of this after lunch for a time. It helped give me an extra 3 or 4 hours of high productivity. The only downside is that it's better to chug the coffee, rather than sip it slowly.


Works great on road trips, I need to be just right amount of tired for it to work for me though then stop at a diner like Waffle House, get a bite and a coffee, head back to the car and nod off for a spell. You wake-up peculiarly alert.


I can attest to this. I've done this several times for the energy boost. I didn't know there is a name for it; "coffee nap". I tend to add dance/techno music to know when to wake up and get back to work.


This is anecdotal, but I discovered this in undergrad - I would drink coffee before a class, and end up falling asleep briefly during a lecture, and then end up wide awake the rest of the time and more. It really does wonders.


Can confirm it works. Have done this often in about 3-4 years. It's easy to fall asleep really fast if you are actually tired (physically or mentally)...doesn't work if you are just bored and wanna pep yourself up.


What's the point? Unless you work at Google, at home, or at a super trendy startup, or in your own big office with a sofa in it, this doesn't really mean anything for you because you have no place to take a nap.


How long can coffee napping be used, and what are the after effects?

The article says the test subjects used it to good effect for 24 hours. I wonder if the following day was a compete productivity waste.


Serious Question: What can I do where I really need to do this in the afternoon (and would of course really increase productivity), but I'm not allowed to nap at work?


Best bet is to leave work for lunch. Sit in your car if you have one, wearing sunglasses. Best if your car has tinted windows. If your building has a parking garage, that is ideal, less chance of random person thinking you are dead and calling the cops. If you don't have a car, bathroom stalls might work, if you can find a clean spot where you can sit on the toilet and lean your head against the stall wall. Wiping down the area where you lay your head with hand sanitizer might be a good move. Some libraries have private rooms you can reserve for studying. If it's too hard at your job, you may have to decide whether it's worth changing jobs. It sounds silly, but if taking a siesta would have a significant positive impact on your productivity (and it does for many people), then changing jobs is a reasonable step IMO.


It's hard for me to just take a nap on command in the middle of the day. I wish it was easy for me because a nap would help a lot.


Sounds like this would pair well with specially designed time release caffeine capsules that release 20 minutes before you wake up.


A 20 minute nap does way more for me than a cup of coffee, but this is a promising approach I'll definitely try.


Common practice in elite military units for putting off proper sleep for long periods of time.


Hmmph! No Thanks. Coffee makes me sort of nervous when I drink it. -Slingblade


I knew this worked in practice, now I understand how it works in theory.


When I tried this as a teenager I ended up having lucid dreams.


It's thought this practice is a common knowledge, strange that it's "news". I have been using this for years.


No shit.


I'm thinking of putting a mattress beneath my desk/cubicle. I have a hard time falling asleep on command or taking naps at all. Maybe properly lying down instead of lying kind of uncomfortably on the floor will help with that.

This is in a university setting, so I have no managers to worry about. The only problem might be noise (I often sleep with earplugs anyway), and weird looks.


coffee naps? It's like Joseph is talking to my heart.




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