With more than one in 10 Americans getting insufficient sleep every night — and many more not sleeping well at least a few times a month — daily power naps have become a staple for people trying to catch up on shut-eye. But are those short bursts actually doing all that much for your sleep deprivation?
While earlier research has pointed to power naps potentially being beneficial, researchers from Michigan State University wanted to put those theories to the test to see how these mini snoozes affected overall sleep deprivation. According to their newly published study in the journal Sleep, scientists recruited 275 participants who completed a series of cognitive tests. They were then randomly assigned to one of three groups: One group went home to sleep for the night after their tests, one group stayed at the researchers’ lab overnight and only took one 30-to-60-minute nap, and one group stayed awake the entire evening. The next morning, participants took a second round of cognitive tests to see what effect their various levels of sleep deprivation had on their mental capabilities.
This experiment resulted in two important findings. First, participants who got a full night of sleep performed significantly better than the groups who either took a short power nap or didn’t sleep at all the night before. Second, those who got to nap did perform better than those who didn’t at all, and for every 10 minutes of slow-wave sleep they got — the deepest and most restorative level of sleep — there was a four percent decrease in errors on cognitive tests.
In other words, a short nap may be marginally better than no sleep at all, but that doesn’t mean it takes the place of an actual evening of rest or keeps long-term effects of sleep deprivation at bay. Researchers hope that their results underscore the importance of getting eight hours of rest nightly, as some of these effects of sleep deprivation, even if temporarily counteracted slightly by a nap, accumulate over time.
If you’re looking for ways to jumpstart better rest right now, there are plenty of strategies to try. You can exercise daily, try a sleep mask, take a little melatonin, and so much more. You deserve some great shut-eye!