“Caff-naps” could help shiftworkers stay alert

When it comes to staying alert while working night shifts, some people choose to grab quick naps, while others pour back the coffee. A new study, however, suggests that coffee followed by a nap may work best.

The problem with napping is that people often still feel groggy after they wake up. This can impair their ability to perform their job for up to an hour. Drinking a cup of coffee after a nap can help shorten that time, although the stimulating effect of the caffeine still takes 20 to 30 minutes to fully kick in.

Instead of napping at all, some folks consume multiple cups of coffee throughout their shift. The problem is, doing so can disrupt their sleep once they get home and go to bed.

Led by Dr. Stephanie Centofanti, scientists at the University of South Australia experimented with a different approach. At 3:30am, they gave a group of test subjects a 200-mg dose of caffeine (equivalent to one to two cups of coffee), immediately after which those people took a 30-minute nap. A control group unknowingly received a placebo, then also napped.

When both groups were tested over a 45-minute period after waking up, it was members of the “caff-nap” group who showed the most significant improvements in performance and alertness.

“By drinking a coffee before taking a nap, shiftworkers can gain the benefits of a 20 to 30-minute nap then the perk of the caffeine when they wake,” says Centofanti. “It’s a win-win.”

A larger study involving a greater number of participants is now in the works.

The research is described in a paper that was recently published in the journal Chronobiology International.

Source: University of South Australia

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