Is an afternoon nap a luxury or is it really beneficial? Taking a nap can definitely help if you haven’t slept enough the previous night. But it has been found that naps are good for us even if we get enough sleep at night.
Even if chronic insomnia can permanently affect our health, a nap can help to at least temporarily reduce these effects. A study by the Sorbonne University in Paris has shown that three short naps reduce stress and thatimmune systemstrengthen. “Our data suggest that taking a 30-minute nap can reverse the hormonal effects of a night of poor sleep,” said Brice Faraut, a co-author of the study. 1
In their study, the researchers examined the relationship between hormoneen and sleep in a group of 11 healthy men aged 25 to 32 years. The men took a two-part test in a sleep laboratory, with meals and lighting strictly controlled.
During one of the two sessions, the men were only allowed to sleep two hours in one night. In the other session, subjects were able to take two 30-minute naps on the day following the night with restricted sleep time of two hours. The two three-day sessions each started with a night in which the test subjects spent eight hours in bed and ended with a night of rest with no restrictions on sleep time.
Researchers analyzed the participants’ urine and saliva to determine how restricted sleep time and napping affected hormone levels. After a night of restricted sleep, the men had a 2.5-fold increase in norepinephrine hormone levels. Norepinephrine increases the heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar in the body. The researchers found no change in norepinephrine levels after the men napped after a night of restricted sleep.
The lack of sleep also affected levels of interleukin-6, a protein with antiviral properties found in the test subjects’ saliva. The values decreased after a night of restricted sleep, but remained normal when the test subjects were allowed to take a nap. The changes suggest that napping can have positive effects on the immune system.
NAPS AND SENIORS
A study was conducted in Japan to assess the effects of napping during the day on performance, mood, and physiological values in the elderly. 2
The participants were six healthy seniors, with an average age of 72.2 years, who were used to napping at least three afternoons a week. Participation took place in two situations with an interval of 1 week. In the nap situation, the test subjects went to bed at 1 p.m. and slept for 30 minutes. In the resting situation you only watched TV. In both situations, brain activity (EEG), blood pressure, mood and performance were measured before and after a nap or a period of rest. Napping during the day improved performance, decreased subjective drowsiness and fatigue, and reduced EEG-alpha activity. In addition, the diastolic decreased Blood pressure clearly after a nap. These findings indicate that the usual nap during the day helps to keep the physiological values, mood and mental alertness of seniors at an appropriate level throughout the day.
DOES AN AFTERNOON NAP MEAN YOU WON’T SLEEP AT NIGHT?
A study was done in older adults (ages 58-95 years old) for naps and insomnia. The results showed that there was no significant association between the number of naps and sleep disorders. 3
The conclusion is that naps can be beneficial for young and old. But of course, a good night’s sleep is always best.
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1. Sorbonne University: “Napping Reverses Health Effects of Poor Sleep”, Endocrine Society press society, February 10, 2013,
2. University of Hiroshima “Effects of a daytime nap in the aged”, Munehisa Tamaki, Ai Shirota, Hideki Tanaka PhD , Mitsuo Hayashi PhD, Tadao Hori PhD First published: February 12, 2002
3. Napping and sleep disturbances in the elderly “ME Metz, DE Bunnel University of Minnesota Medical School.