Posted in Kafevend Blog

If there's one thing people value above their coffee's taste, it's coffee's power to keep them going throughout the day. The drive to stay actively switched on for the full working day, and maybe a long commute too, is part and parcel of our hectic culture. Nevertheless, sleep is a fundamental human need which can't be continually ignored. Happily then, it turns out that sleep and coffee needn't be mutually exclusive. Let's take another look at caffeine following last week's foray into the subject and see if we can't use it to greater advantage.

Caffeine wasn't actually discovered until 1819 when a German chemist named Friedlieb Runge isolated it during an analysis of Arabian mocha beans, but the ability of coffee to act as a stimulant wasn't exactly news. The earliest discoveries of coffee's usefulness are found in various apocryphal tales arising centuries ago in East Africa, the most well known of which concerns an Ethiopian goatherd, Kaldi, who observes the energising effect of some red berries on his goats. He tries the wild coffee cherries for himself and the human love affair with coffee, and the caffeine therein, begins.

In recent years there has been an interesting development in the 'drink coffee to stay awake' sphere, namely the advent of the 'coffee nap'. The idea was first developed by scientists working at Loughborough University's sleep research laboratory. Participants in a study had to take a weekly two hour simulated driving test, following different amounts of sleep the night before. Half hour breaks were inserted between practice sessions and the actual driving test, with some individuals drinking coffee during the break, some drinking coffee and having a nap afterwards and others neither. The results clearly showed that the coffee nap group were the most alert during the driving tests.

The basic science behind the effect witnessed at Loughborough is remarkably common sense stuff. The body takes approximately twenty minutes to respond to the effects of caffeine; at the same time a short nap can have a wonderfully restorative effect on someone struggling with that sluggish feeling. Thus, not only do you benefit from the sleep, but the stimulating nature of the coffee will kick in as you're waking up and, hey presto, productivity and the ability to concentrate are recalibrated, leaving you able to tackle the remainder of the day with renewed vigour!

The flaw in the coffee nap action plan is that while most companies are perfectly happy for their employees to top up on coffee, the idea of them going off to catch forty winks is far less appealing. There are a growing number of exceptions to this rule however, Google being the most well known example. Amongst their perks, Google staff have access to Energy Pods and perhaps it's the label given to these napping zones that's the clue to the company's stance on snoozing. It believes that productivity and creativity are enhanced in well rested individuals and ultimately that results in better business.

So the next time you're struggling to stay awake, try it out for yourself; don't just down a coffee, have a short nap too and if your boss complains, blame it on the Kafevend blog!

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