Short Daytime Naps Briefly Attenuate Objectively Measured Sleepiness Under Chronic Sleep Restriction.

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Abstract

Study Objectives

Napping is a useful countermeasure to the negative effects of acute sleep loss on alertness. The efficacy of naps to recover from chronic sleep loss is less well understood.

Methods

Following 2 baseline nights (10 hours' time-in-bed), participants were restricted to 7 nights of 5-hour sleep opportunity. Ten adults participated in the No-Nap condition, and a further 9 were assigned to a Nap condition with a daily 45-minute nap opportunity at 1300 h. Sleepiness was assessed using the multiple sleep latency test and a visual analogue scale at 2-hour intervals. Both objective and subjective indexes of sleepiness were normalized within subject as a difference from those at baseline prior to sleep restriction. Mixed-effects models examined how the daytime nap opportunity altered sleepiness across the day and across the protocol.

Results

Short daytime naps attenuated sleepiness due to chronic sleep restriction for up to 6-8 hours after the nap. Benefits of the nap did not extend late into evening. Subjective sleepiness demonstrated a similar short-lived benefit that emerged later in the day when objective sleepiness already returned to pre-nap levels. Neither measure showed a benefit of the nap the following morning after the subsequent restriction night.

Conclusions

These data indicate a short daytime nap may attenuate sleepiness in chronic sleep restriction, yet subjective and objective benefits emerge at different time scales. Because neither measure showed a benefit the next day, the current study underscores the need for careful consideration before naps are used as routine countermeasures to chronic sleep loss.

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