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Why runners should try the coffee nap

A coffee nap sounds contradictory, but it's something tired runners should consider trying

Sleep is like natural doping for a runner. If someone is getting consistent, quality sleep, their performances are sure to see some benefit and their injury risk is significantly reduced. But life gets busy, and late nights coupled with early mornings mean that runners can end up sleep-deprived at times. Enter the coffee nap, the very quick nap that’s made even better with the addition of some caffeine.

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The coffee nap is when you consume about 200 mg of caffeine (a tall Pike from Starbucks, for example) and then take a 20-minute snooze. According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Neuropsychology, caffeine plus a cat nap was the most effective way to decrease sleepiness and improve performance in their test subjects.

UTTC workout wednesday. Photo: Maxine Gravina

Ten young healthy adults participated in five different experiments. Those experiments included: taking a 20-minute nap, taking 200 mg of caffeine and then taking a 20-minute nap, exposure to bright light after 20 minutes of napping, taking a nap and then washing their faces and a no-nap nap (resting for 20 minutes without actually sleeping).

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While a quick nap isn’t a substitute for the REM sleep you’re hopefully getting at night, it can certainly help, especially if you’ve got a big evening workout on the docket. Also, if coffee isn’t your thing, a caffeinated tea will also do the trick. So if there’s a spare 20 minutes in your afternoon, a small coffee and quick snooze might make a significant difference in your energy levels.