The power of a power nap

By Kirstin Buick
20 February 2015

Many people turn to a power nap before a night out, a big meeting or an important event. And now the benefits have been scientifically backed up, as new research has found just 30 minutes of shuteye can repair damage triggered by lack of sleep by relieving stress and boosting your immune system.

'Our data suggests a 30-minute nap can reverse the hormonal impact of a night of poor sleep'

The relationship between sleep and hormones in 11 healthy men aged between 25 and 32 was examined, with participants limited to two hours’ sleep for one night during one session. In the other session, the men slept the same amount of time but were also allowed two 30-minute naps the day after their restless night.

These would take place over three days, beginning with a full eight hours sleep and ending with the males given a night of unlimited snoozing as recovery.

Results discovered that limited sleep produced more norepinephrine, a hormone which increases blood sugar, blood pressure and heart rate, thus resulting in more energy. However there was a lack of interleukin-6, a protein with antiviral properties found in saliva. When the men napped, they still remained alert thanks to the norepinephrine, and their interleukin-6 was boosted.

This concludes that naps can be beneficial for the body as a whole, especially when fending off bacteria.

"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 biomarkers of neuroendocrine and immune health to normal levels," Dr Brice Faraut, of the Université Paris Descartes-Sorbonne Paris Cité, explained.

"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 study, published in Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, is also hoped to help those who do shift work and suffer from insomnia.

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