Home » Night shifts: how not to be sleepy. Two naps are better than one

Night shifts: how not to be sleepy. Two naps are better than one

by admin
Night shifts: how not to be sleepy.  Two naps are better than one

diAntonella Sparvoli

A Japanese study evaluated the best combination of naps to stay alert on the night shift (16 hours)

For those who work during the day, drops in energy and concentration can be counteracted with the strategic power nap, the restorative nap that lasts from 10 to a maximum of 30 minutes.
But how do you stay fresh and awake during a 16-hour night shift? It seems that the ideal is to take not a single prolonged nap, but rather a couple of naps, the first of an hour half past one and the next about 30 minutes. This is suggested by Sanae Oriyama, a researcher at the University of Hiroshima in Japan, author of a study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Comparing naps

The Japanese scholar analyzed the data relating to three previous experiments with the aim of evaluating the alertness and cognitive performance of 41 women after a single two-hour nap (from 10pm to midnight) or two naps, at different times, of 90 minutes (from 10.30pm to midnight) and 30 minutes (from 2.30am to 3am) as well as without naps, during a simulated 16-hour night shift.
To measure speed and accuracy in performing a task, participants were assessed hourly during the night shift using the Uchida-Kraepelin test, which has a history of more than 60 years in Japan. This is a serial addition test, which requires you to perform calculations as quickly and accurately as possible for 30 minutes, thus allowing you to measure your actual work performance by carrying out simulated work. They were also asked to rate their levels of sleepiness and tiredness.

The verdict

Well, women who took a single 2-hour nap at the beginning of the night tended to feel sleepy around 4 a.m., while those who took two shorter naps began to feel sleepy around 6 a.m. . All participants experienced a general feeling of tiredness between 4 and 9 in the morning, but a little less intense in the two-nap group.

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Implications for shift workers (and new mothers?)

«A 90-minute nap to maintain long-term performance and a 30-minute nap to maintain lower levels of fatigue and rapid reactions would seem to be a strategic combination for those who work long night shifts and a valuable aid in maintaining efficiency and safety at work early in the morning”, observes Oriyama who, however, underlines the need to further investigate what the ideal time and cadence for naps are.
The author of the study also points out how the new data could benefit not only those who work night shifts, such as nursing staff, but also those who experience sleep deprivation and therefore do not get enough rest. Typical is the case of new mothers, dealing with a newborn or students who go on nightly “stretches” in preparation for questions or exams.
The two-nap strategy could help minimize fatigue and the risks it entails on a physical and psychological level.

February 23, 2024

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