Whether you’re a new parent, a student cramming for exams, or just a night owl – a poor night’s sleep can knock you off your game the following day. The good news is that a quickie nap may be enough to reverse the negative health effects.
A recent study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism found that a 30-minute nap has the ability to bring levels of stress-related hormones and proteins back to normal.
“In laboratory studies, it seems clear that not getting enough sleep activates the body’s physiological stress response,” says Orfeu Buxton, associate professor in the Department of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State. “What this study showed was that a power nap, even after an extremely short sleep night of just two hours, seems to take the edge off of that stress response.”
According to Buxton, who wasn’t involved in the study, a crummy night’s sleep can lead to an adrenaline rush the following day. However, even a short nap can reduce the stress-ball feeling pulling an all-nighter often leaves behind.
For the study, which consisted of 11 healthy men between the ages of 25 and 32, French researchers observed the link between hormones and sleep. For the first night, participants were allowed to spend eight hours in bed. However, the second night was restricted to only two hours. On the third day, the men were allowed to take two half-hour naps.
What they found was that poor sleep significantly raised stress-related hormones – but napping the next day appeared to restore these levels. Napping was also associated with potential immune benefits.
“There’s clear data that getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night on a regular basis gives you this all the time, so napping isn’t some new recommended lifestyle,” says Buxton. “This is a one-time fix in an extreme circumstance. If you’re stuck and only get two hours of sleep, taking a nap the next day will probably feel a lot better than the third, fourth or fifth cup of coffee.”