Napping Reverses Adverse Health Effects Caused By Poor Sleep, Enhances Productivity

Alap Naik Desai

A short nap effectively reverses the adverse effects of sleep deprivation.

According to a new study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM), a short nap can help relieve stress and bolster the immune systems of men, who slept only two hours the previous night.

Sleep deprivation is one of the biggest and most commonly occurring yet oft-neglected public health problems. Nearly three in 10 adults reported they slept an average of six hours or less a night, according to the National Health Interview Survey. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hundreds of vehicle and industrial accidents can be traced back to an insufficient amount of sleep.

Not getting enough sleep can significantly lower productivity. However, a short nap effectively helps to restore the vigor and vitality that sleep deprivation robbed, explained Brice Faraut, Ph.D., of the Université Paris Descartes-Sorbonne Paris Cité in Paris, France, who is one of the JCEM study's authors.

"Our data suggests a 30-minute nap can reverse the hormonal impact of a night of poor sleep. This is the first study that found napping could restore bio-markers of neuroendocrine and immune health to normal levels."

Using a cross-over, randomized study design to examine the relationship between hormones and sleep in a group of 11 healthy men between the ages of 25 and 32, the researchers were able to draw the conclusion about the powerful restorative effects of short naps.

The men participating in the study underwent two sessions of sleep testing in a laboratory, where meals and lighting were strictly controlled. Each of the three-day sessions began with a night where subjects spent eight hours in bed and concluded with a recovery night of unlimited sleep. During one session, the men were limited to two hours of sleep for one night. For the other session, subjects were able to take two, 30-minute naps the day after their sleep was restricted to two hours.

To ensure the conclusions were iron-clad, researchers also analyzed the participants' urine and saliva to determine how restricted sleep and napping altered hormone levels. After a night of restricted sleep, the men had a 2.5 times increase in levels of norepinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter involved in the body's fight-or-flight response to stress. Norepinephrine increases the body's heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar.

Interestingly, researchers found no change in norepinephrine levels when the men had napped following a night of limited sleep.

"Napping may offer a way to counter the damaging effects of sleep restriction by helping the immune and neuroendocrine systems to recover. The findings support the development of practical strategies for addressing chronically sleep-deprived populations, such as night and shift workers."

The power of a brief nap has long been realized by the great minds. Now science has proven how it works.

[Image Credit | Alamy]