Could Short Naps be the Secret to Battling Sleep Deprivation?

We’ve all been there—life throws us a curveball, and suddenly a full night’s sleep becomes a distant dream. Whether it’s a late-night flight, a sick child, or an irresistible binge-watching session, the result is the same: we wake up after just a few hours, needing our brain and body to function at their best.

But fear not, for the power nap might be the superhero in this sleep-deprived saga. A recent study from The Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University in England delved into the impact of naps on alertness and exercise performance.

The Sleep Experiment

The researchers gathered 15 young males (average age: 22) who were already well-versed in resistance training. The study employed a cross-over design over five weeks:

  • Week 1: Two nights of sleep deprivation + no nap
  • Week 2: Off week
  • Week 3: Two nights of sleep deprivation + 30-minute nap
  • Week 4: Off week
  • Week 5: Two nights of sleep deprivation + 60-minute nap

After each round of sleep deprivation, the participants underwent various tests measuring physical, cognitive, and emotional performance.

Interestingly, the study revealed that naps didn’t impact how much the participants could lift during sleep deprivation. However, the mood, alertness, vigour, and happiness of those who took naps saw improvement. Cognitive function also fared better on the days they indulged in a midday siesta. Notably, the duration of the nap (30 vs. 60 minutes) didn’t sway these outcomes.

Key Takeaways

  • Small Study, Big Picture: While the study’s scope was limited to 15 young males, it adds valuable insights. However, it conflicts with earlier research from the same institution, emphasising the need for a cautious interpretation of findings.
  • Nap Nuances: Napping’s effectiveness varies among individuals. While some swear by its refreshing effects, others may find themselves battling post-nap grogginess or even nighttime insomnia. Individual circumstances play a crucial role.
  • Consistency is Key: Instead of viewing naps as occasional remedies for sleepless nights, embrace them as a daily ritual. Scheduling a nap approximately eight to nine hours after waking and keeping it short (20 minutes) or long (90 minutes) can maximise benefits.

In the realm of sleep and exercise, the power nap emerges as a potential ally. As we navigate the inevitable disruptions to our sleep patterns, a well-timed nap might just be the superhero cape our bodies need to power through.