Great question Sonia.
Power napping is hard. Like any skill, it takes practice. I’ve only started being good at it 6 months ago. I do it almost every day now. But before that, I would try at least once per week and I would “fail” most of the time. Actually, even to this day, I still don’t always fall asleep.
I would suggest you don’t try coffee naps until you can do power naps, for two reasons: 1. it’s harder, for the reasons you mention, and 2. It’s quite powerful when you do it right. When I do coffee naps, I have to be ready to go to bed much later. It makes it much harder for me to fall asleep.
Here are a few tips for a successful power nap:
- Don’t power nap if you’re not tired enough. I usually fall asleep in about 10–15 minutes when I’m really tired. That changes for everyone. 10–15 is actually quite a lot. If I’m tired enough but need a break, I usually take a 15–20 minute walk.
- Put an alarm. I set mine for 25 minutes. I end up napping between 10–15 minutes. The alarm frees you from thinking about waking up on time.
- Don’t nap for more than 15 +/- 5 minutes. This depends on people obviously. 10–15 minutes work great for me. 20 minutes makes it hard for me to wake up.
- Cut off the distractions. I always listen to a song called Earth, from Gladiator’s soundtrack (by Hans Zimmer). I know other people who use earplugs. If you’re good at meditating, you can probably do without earplugs or music.
- Be comfortable but not too much. Napping in a comfortable bed makes it hard to get out. I currently nap on my chair, resting my head on the desk with my arms crossed over. It’s really not that comfortable. If you have access to a couch, I would go for that.
- A “successful” nap is not always about sleeping. I don’t always fall asleep. You still gain energy back from relaxing.
- It takes some time to recover from the nap. Plan for 15–20 minutes to be back to full energy. A successful power nap almost entirely removes this grace period.
If you do want to do a coffee nap, go for an espresso. If you can’t set the water temperature, let it sit in the freezer for 3–5 minutes. You have to make sure to drink it fast. Real fast. The caffein takes about 20 minutes to kick in, so same length as the power nap.
But yeah, this takes practice. Keep trying. Don’t judge a “failed” nap. There are still benefits even if you don’t always fall asleep. Acknowledge that it does take time to fully recover as well. I’ve been doing it for over 2 years now and on average, I get 2–3 extra productive hours every day.