Of Super-Power Naps & Coffee

coffee time

Tuesday afternoons after lunch have become one of the highlights of my week. From the outside, people have told me that my Tuesdays (my normal “day off” from my 9-5 job) “must be nice”. The reality is that every Tuesday I go 1-on-3 with my 3 kids (ages five and under). It is hand-to-hand combat. Coordinating nap schedules, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, morning snacks, afternoon snacks, taking kids to school, picking kids up from school, cleaning the morning dishes, cleaning the lunch dishes, cleaning the dinner dishes, cleaning the snack dishes, changing diapers, reminding them for the 9th time to wash their hands after they eat/use the bathroom/put sand in their mouths…you name it, it happens every day at our house.

But for one glorious stretch of time after-lunch in the early afternoon, all three of my kiddos nap. It produces a quiet in our home that would almost make me nervous, save that I am usually running on fumes at that point in the day.

Previously, my normal routine as we reached this part of our day was to take a “Power Nap” of my own-15, 20, even 30-minutes in length. While the rest was always welcome, as any sleep-deprived parent will tell you, it never felt like quite enough. That feeling changed for me, forever, about a year ago.

While digging through my usual list of research-related reading materials on matters of health and human performance, I came across two separate items that, when combined, dramatically alter my sleep quality, energy-level, and focus in the afternoon and evening.

Binaural Beats

No, this isn’t a new set of headphones made by Dr. Dre. Rather, this is an audio technology that has been studied for nearly 100-years and is now used to induce varying states of consciousness-namely either a super-relaxed or a focused state of cognition.

Without going super anatomy and physiology on you all, I’ll try to explain binaural beats. Essentially, if a person is wearing headphones and a tone comes through the right headphone at a certain level (measured in Hertz, commonly abbreviated “Hz”) while the left headphone produces a tone at a different Hz-level, the listener will perceive the presence of a third tone, known as an auditory illusion, that is the difference between the tone coming in the right ear and the left ear.

This is where it gets even cooler. A binaural beat will cause an activation in the brain of what’s called the reticular formation, which will send a signal up to thalamus. What this means in terms of actual brain function is that we can create different tone frequencies in your ears that will stimulate your brain into varying states of consciousness, sleep, and alertness.

Think about this for a minute. It sounds crazy, but is experientially true for us all. Example: when you hear a song from your 8th grade dances, you feel a certain set of emotions arise. Similarly, how many of us have tried listening to classical music or the sound of ocean waves as we attempted to bring our minds and bodies into a state of greater relaxation?

Binaural beats is the performance enhancing  answer to improving our cognition, our ability to relax, and our ability to focus and perform. There are now several binaural beats “apps” for Android and iPhone users. Dr. J and I have been using Banzai Labs Brainwave app for just over a year. The “Power Nap” program is one of our favorites: a 20-minute session (the session can be customized to go longer or shorter durations, though sessions 30 minutes or longer can create “sleep inertia”, that groggy feeling you feel after napping too long). The “Power Nap”setting has three tone stages that first put you in a relaxed state and finish up by gently waking you up in an alert and energized. They’ve also got programs to help you wake up in the morning, get into a deeper state of sleep at night, increase focus, meditate, reduce stress, and increase pre-exercise energy. It’s been the best $4.99 we’ve spent in recent memory. If you want to check it out for yourself, here’s the link (we get no commission for your click).

Coffee Naps

About 5 months ago I came across some research by Research Fellow Cheri Mah of the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) Human Performance Center. Cheri is also a sports advisor for Standford University and has worked with professional athletes in MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL and has a particular focus on how sleep affects recovery from training and athletic competition. It was Cheri’s research that introduced me to the concept of a Coffee Nap.

WARNING!!! More Anatomy and Physiology education is coming!!!

You have this set of receptors in your brain that can be acted on by both caffeine and this molecule called Adenosine, what’s called a neuromodulator. Adenosine accumulates in these brain receptors throughout the day and when it reaches a critical mass of connections in brain receptors you start to feel drowsy and tired. When caffeine attaches to these receptors, it blocks the ability of Adenosine to attach to the receptor, creating a more alert state in your brain. We also know that sleep clears Adenosine from these receptors.

So here’s how you can use caffeine in combination with a nap to supercharge your afternoon:

  1. Drink, quickly, 8-12 oz. of coffee then immediately lay down for your nap.
  2. Set a timer for 20 minutes. Don’t worry if you don’t fall all the way asleep, even in a semi-sleep state, Adenonsine is being cleared from those receptors in your brain.
  3. In 20 minutes, the caffeine you consumed will have passed through your GI system and entered into your brain. With Adenosine cleared from those brain receptors, the coffee you drank will have an even greater effect in making you feel more alert.

The Super-Power Nap

If you haven’t put 2 and 2 together yet, let me bring it home for you. When you combine the Binaural Beats Power Nap program with the Coffee Nap Protocol, you are set up to win parenting.

So there you have it. Naps and Coffee. Once the tattered life preservers of the haggard parent, you can now super charge them both to absolutely make over your day.

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2 Responses to “Of Super-Power Naps & Coffee

  • This is excellent!! I can’t wait to share with Brad and try it myself! I’ll let you know how it goes!

    • DrTcSandC
      8 months ago

      Cool! It’s new parents like you two we’re aiming to help. The Super-Power Coffee Nap is a staple for us!

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