Napping Reduces StressNaps can help sleep-deprived individuals manage stress and health. A new study from Université Paris Descartes-Sorbonne Paris Cité in Paris, France finds that 30-minute naps can help regulate hormones associated with stress and the immune system. In the United States, nearly one-third of adults report not sleeping enough. The findings may offer a method for limiting the effects of insufficient sleep.

To examine the relationship between hormones and sleep, the researchers evaluated 11 men, aged 25 to 32 years. The men participated in two sleep testing sessions. The researchers analyzed urine and saliva samples from each session to determine the impact of sleep on hormones. In the first testing session, men spent eight hours sleeping the first night, two hours the second night, and were allowed an unlimited amount of sleep on the third night. The second testing session, the men followed the same schedule except that they were allowed to take two 30-minute naps the day after their limited night’s sleep of two hours.

Napping mitigated the effect of limited sleep on the men’s hormones. After the two-hour sleep night in the first session, there was a 2.5-fold increase in the men’s levels of norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter associated with the fight-or-flight response as well as increased heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar. When the men were allowed to nap after a night of limited sleep, their norepinephrine levels did not change. The researchers observed a similar pattern in a hormone called interleukin-6, a protein with antiviral properties. After the limited sleep night in the first session, interleukin-6 levels dropped. When the men were allowed to nap, the interleukin-6 levels remained stable.

Study author Brice Faraut, Ph.D, explains the impact of the study. “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.”

For people who cannot sleep enough at night, napping could be one way to help regulate the immune system and stress. This study may help researchers better understand the role that sufficient sleep plays in maintaining physical health.

This research is published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

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