Effects of a short midday nap on habitual nappers’ alertness, mood and mental performance across cognitive domains

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Abstract

Summary

This study examines whether the benefits of a short midday nap on habitual nappers’ mental performance depend on the cognitive domain and the task difficulty. Eighteen healthy college students with the long-term habit of a midday nap (13:00–14:00 hours) participated in a nap-deprivation study. On two separate days with at least 3 days in between, participants either took a nap or remained awake, and were subsequently tested on a simple sustained attention task (Psychomotor Vigilance Test), two more complex attention tasks (Go/No-Go and Flanker task) and one working memory task (2-back). For each task, an easy and a difficult version were administered. The time course of subjective sleepiness and mood were also measured in both napping conditions. The results revealed that short midday nap deprivation significantly impaired participants’ performance on both the easy and difficult versions of the Psychomotor Vigilance Test task, as well as accuracy but not reaction speed in the Go/No-Go task. Accuracy in the difficult version of the Flanker task and the 2-back task was also lower in the no-nap condition, while reaction speed in the 2-back task but not the Flanker task was reduced without a nap in both the easy and difficult versions. Moreover, subjective sleepiness was significantly increased after nap deprivation, but moods remained unaffected in the no-nap condition. These findings contribute to current research suggesting that effects of a midday nap on task performance depend on the cognitive domain as well as task difficulty. Our study highlights the importance of considering task characteristics to evaluate the benefits of a regular midday nap in practical working life.

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