Philip P, et al (2006). The effects of coffee and napping on nighttime highway driving: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med;144:785-91.

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Sleep-related accidents often involve healthy young persons who are driving at night. Coffee and napping restore alertness, but no study has compared their effects on real nighttime driving performances.


To test the effects of 125 mL of coffee (half a cup) containing 200 mg of caffeine, placebo (decaffeinated coffee containing 15 mg of caffeine), or a 30-minute nap (at 1:00 a.m.) in a car on nighttime driving performance.


Double-blind, randomized, crossover study.


Sleep laboratory and open highway.


12 young men (mean age, 21.3 years [SD, 1.8]).


Self-rated fatigue and sleepiness, inappropriate line crossings from video recordings during highway driving, and polysomnographic recordings during the nap and subsequent sleep.


Participants drove 200 km (125 miles) between 6:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (daytime reference condition) or between 2:00 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. (coffee, decaffeinated coffee, or nap condition). After intervention, participants returned to the laboratory to sleep.


Nighttime driving performance was similar to daytime performance (0 to 1 line crossing) for 75% of participants after coffee (0 or 1 line crossing), for 66% after the nap (P = 0.66 vs. coffee), and for only 13% after placebo (P = 0.041 vs. nap; P = 0.014 vs. coffee). The incidence rate ratios for having a line crossing after placebo were 3.7 (95% CI, 1.2 to 11.0; P = 0.001) compared with coffee and 2.9 (CI, 1.7 to 5.1; P = 0.021) compared with nap. A statistically significant inter individual variability was observed in response to sleep deprivation and countermeasures. Sleep latencies and efficiency during sleep after nighttime driving were similar in the 3 conditions.


Only 1 dose of coffee and 1 nap duration were tested. Effects may differ in other patient or age groups.


Drinking coffee or napping at night statistically significantly reduces driving impairment without altering subsequent sleep.

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