Just Five More Minutes: Observing Potential Benefits of Napping

Waking up out of a particularly interesting dream, right before the climax, is a feeling many are familiar with, and many despise. The annoyance of waking up mid sleep cycle is something that is bound to affect your overall mood for the day ahead of you. To understand how to combat sleep fatigue, it is important to understand how essential sleep is for our everyday function. Firstly, our sleeping cycle is split into two cycles and four stages of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) with a bit of rapid eye movement (REM) in between these cycles (Walker, 2021). Walker found that REM sleep serves as overnight therapy, helping deal with difficult or even traumatic emotional experiences while NREM sleep simultaneously works to downscale levels of anxiety; finding that insufficient sleep is positively correlated with escalating anxiety. With sleep appearing to be so important for the maintenance of our health, what happens if we lose some sleep? Does napping provide ample benefits to outweigh our need to sleep 8 hours?

Did you sleep enough?

A global experiment, that may be coming to an end soon, is Daylight Saving Time in which 1.5 billion people lose an hour of sleep as we move our clocks around and it has shown to increase prevalence of heart attacks the following day by 24% (Gordon, 2022, Walker, 2021). The disruption of our personal nighttime cognitive therapists known as NREM and REM have very real consequences on our health. A common practice that sleep-deprived individuals may tend towards is napping, midday. Milner and Cote (2009) found the best length of a nap through reviewing a number of studies regarding naps of different length. Milner and Cote (2009) found that naps of 10-20 minutes are best to avoid sleep inertia: a reduction in the ability to think and perform upon awakening due to sleep. In another study by Milner and Cote (2008), different age groups propensity to different lengths napping was observed with younger, middle-aged, and older adults were the age groups. Milner and Cote (2008) found that naps are beneficial for mood and cognitive performance and older adults can garner as much benefit from a nap as much as younger counterparts (Milner and Cote, 2009). Feel free to use this as a sweet excuse to catch some Z’s next time you feel a little tired.

What are other benefits to naps?

It is hard to believe that more is needed to convince someone that napping is beneficial, but the evidence is there if you need more. The most interesting part of sleep to me is the non-mood improvements that are benefited by sleep, specifically napping. Similarly, to sleep, exercise has been shown to have multiple positive interactions with body’s ability to function and remember things. In a study by Mograss et. al. (2020), participants were allocated into one of four conditions in a 2 (exercise vs no exercise) x 2 (napping vs no napping) design. Mograss et al. (2020) found that short-term exercise and a nap improves recognition memory over a nap or exercise alone, providing evidence for memory and exercise working together to enhance long term memory. With potential mood and memory benefits, it should go without say that sleeping is important and nap should be implemented into daily life to increase the benefits of our cognitive therapist friends: NREM and REM.

Bibliography

Botonis, P. G., Koutouvakis, N., & Toubekis, A. G. (2021). The impact of daytime napping on Athletic Performance – A Narrative Review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 31(12), 2164–2177. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.14060

Gordon, N. (2022, March 16). Spring forward or fall back? The U.S. Senate might have made the wrong choice. Fortune. Retrieved May 16, 2022, from https://fortune.com/2022/03/16/daylight-saving-time-sleep-senate-protecting-sunshine-act/

Hartzler, B. M. (2014). Fatigue on the flight deck: The consequences of sleep loss and the benefits of Napping. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 62, 309–318. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aap.2013.10.010

Milner, C. E., & Cote, K. A. (2008). A dose-response investigation of the benefits of napping in healthy young, middle-aged and older adults. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 6(1), 2–15. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1479-8425.2007.00328.x

Milner, C. E., & Cote, K. A. (2009). Benefits of napping in healthy adults: Impact of NAP length, time of day, age, and experience with napping. Journal of Sleep Research, 18(2), 272–281. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2869.2008.00718.x

Mograss, M., Crosetta, M., Abi-Jaoude, J., Frolova, E., Robertson, E. M., Pepin, V., & Dang-Vu, T. T. (2020). Exercising before a NAP benefits memory better than napping or exercising alone. Sleep, 43(9). https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsaa062

Walker, M. P. (2021). Sleep essentialism. Brain, 144(3), 697–699. https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awab026

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