Some studies suggest that taking a nap can help alleviate the effects of night-time insomnia that certain people can develop. Specifically, they point out that it could help mitigate deficiencies in cognitive processes caused by sleep deprivation.
In any case, there is little research that shows the beneficial effects of short naps in this regard. Without going any further, a latest study carried out by the Michigan State University Sleep and Learning Laboratory (United States) indicates that a nap brief during the day does not alleviate sleep deprivation after a sleepless night.
Kimberly Fenn, leader of the research, explains that “we are interested in understanding the cognitive deficits associated with sleep deprivation. In this study, we wanted to know if a short nap during the period of deprivation would mitigate these deficits. We found that short naps of 30 or 60 minutes did not show any measurable effect.”
Short nap after a sleepless night
Keep in mind that non-REM sleep (NREM) or short waves is characterized by being the deepest and most restorative stage. These are high-amplitude, low-frequency brain waves, characterized by greater muscle relaxation, slower heart rate and breathing.
In this sense, the researcher Fenn explains in the magazine ‘sleeping‘ that ‘NREM is the most important phase of sleep. When a person does not sleep for a period of time, even just during the day, he needs to sleep; in particular, he needs the NREM. When individuals leave sleep every nightthey soon enter the NREM and spend a substantial amount of time in this stage.”
However, it seems difficult for people to enter that relaxing and restorative stage of NREM in short naps during the day.
The results of this research were released in the summer of 2021. Specifically, a team of researchers recruited 275 university-aged participants to develop this interesting study regarding naps and their possible restorative effects.
All participants performed cognitive tasks at night and then randomly divided into three different groups. Those in the first group went home to sleep, those in the second group stayed in the laboratory all night and were able to take a 30 or 60-minute nap; and the last group did not take any naps.
Thus, the next morning, all the participants met again in the laboratory, where they carried out the same cognitive activities. These activities examined attention, position maintenance, and ability to complete a series of steps.
In this regard, researcher Fenn states that “the group that stayed the whole night and slept short naps continued to suffer the effects of the sleep deprivation and made far more mistakes on homework than their counterparts who went home and slept through the night. However, each 10-minute increase in NREM reduced errors after outages by about 4 percent.”
Finally, the results show that the participants who had more NREM offered a reduction in errors in both tasks. However, they still showed worse performance than those participants who slept.
Thus, the researcher Kimberly Fenn hopes that these results will make the population aware of the importance of prioritizing night sleep over naps, even if they include periods of NREM. In other words, a nap should never replace a full night’s sleep.