Sleep Deficit: Caffeine or Napping Before Exercise?

Estimated reading time: 1:53 min.

This article is verified by 3 studies/publications.

Getting enough sleep is crucial for muscle recovery after training and for optimal sports performance. However, it’s not always easy to get the recommended amount of sleep.

The question then arises: how can we best make up for sleep deficits in our daily lives and particularly during exercise? A 2021 study investigated whether a nap, caffeine, or a combination of both could best compensate for sleep deficits[1].

Too long; didn’t read (Summary)

  • A study investigated the most effective way to counteract athletic performance deficits caused by sleep deprivation.
  • The study tested various combinations of a 20-minute nap and caffeine consumption before exercising.
  • Results showed that consuming caffeine immediately before taking a short nap, 30 minutes prior to exercising, had the greatest impact on performance.
  • Only taking a power nap before exercising also had a positive effect, whereas consuming caffeine alone was found to be less effective.

Five Sprints to Determine the Best Solution

Nine male athletes participated in the study, completing a sprint test under five different conditions each week:

  • Normal sleep (8.5 hours)
  • Sleep deficit (4.5 hours) + placebo
  • Sleep deficit + 5 mg/kg caffeine
  • Sleep deficit + 20-minute nap + placebo
  • Sleep deficit + nap + 5 mg/kg caffeine

To minimize external factors, participants received standardized meals the night before and on the test day.

Power Napping and Caffeine: The Winning Combo

It’s no secret that caffeine helps us feel more awake, and it’s often used as a pre-workout supplement. But the study revealed that taking a 20-minute nap (followed by 30 minutes of wakefulness) had a more positive impact on performance than caffeine alone.

Moreover, the combination of a power nap and caffeine proved to be even better. Taking caffeine right before the 20-minute nap further enhanced performance. Not only did this combination improve performance, but it also reduced oxidative stress compared to the group without napping.

This study supports the findings of other research on driving[2] and memory[3], which also demonstrated that the combination of naps and caffeine was most effective in enhancing performance.

So, if you can’t get enough sleep, try taking a nap and having some caffeine to improve your performance when dealing with sleep deficits.


  1. Caffeine Use or Napping to Enhance Repeated Sprint Performance After Partial Sleep Deprivation: Why Not Both? Romdhani M, Souissi N, Moussa-Chamari I, Chaabouni Y, Mahdouani K, Sahnoun Z, Driss T, Chamari K, Hammouda O. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2021 Feb 11; 16 (5): 711-718. doi: 10.1123 / ijspp.2019-0792. PMID: 33571957.
  2. Suppression of sleepiness in drivers: combination of caffeine with a short nap. Reyner LA, Horne YES. Psychophysiology. 1997 Nov; 34 (6): 721-5. doi: 10.1111 / j.1469-8986.1997.tb02148.x. PMID: 9401427.
  3. The alerting effects of caffeine, bright light and face washing after a short daytime nap. Hayashi M, Masuda A, Hori T. Clin Neurophysiol. 2003 Dec; 114 (12): 2268-78. doi: 10.1016 / s1388-2457 (03) 00255-4. PMID: 14652086.