Sleep extension through napping may effect performance

Your weekly research review

Francisco Tavares

By Dr. Francisco Tavares
April 12th, 2020 | 4 min read

Contents of Research Review

  1. Background & Objective
  2. What They Did
  3. What They Found
  4. Practical Takeaways
  5. Reviewer’s Comments
  6. About the Reviewer

Background & Objective

Day napping is a strategy frequently used by athletes to increase sleep duration and readiness to perform. Although, there seems to be little scientific evidence about the effects of naps aiding athletic performance and the effects of different napping durations on subsequent performance.

This study aimed to investigate whether or not different nap durations aided an athlete’s readiness to perform on the same day.

What They Did

Seventeen physically active men performed a shuttle test under four conditions with 72-h between each condition:
25-, 35- or 45-min nap opportunity (NAP25, NAP35, NAP45, respectively). No nap opportunity (CON).

The shuttle test consisted of six sets of 30 sec maximal shuttle sprints over 5-, 10-, 15- and 20 m with 35 sec between sets. Total distance over the 6 x 30 sec (TD), best distance (BD) and fatigue index (FI; FI (%)) were obtained. For specific information on how FI was calculated refer to the abstract link above.

What They Found

The main findings of this study were:

  • NAP25 and NAP45 had a beneficial effect on BD in comparison to CON.
  • All napping conditions were beneficial on TD in comparison to CON.
  • No effects of any condition on FI.
  • RPE was lower in NAP45 in comparison to CON and NAP25.
  • No effects of any conditions on sleep quality during the nap opportunities or preceding nights.
  • Practical Takeaways

  • The main practical takeaway of this study is that athletes may benefit from a nap during the day-time before practice or competition.
  • Some points must be considered when allocating a time for naps to occur in the training schedule:
  • Naps should occur early in the afternoon (~13:30-16:00) in order for future sleep to not be affected.
  • Naps should not be long (~20-30 min) so night sleep is not affected.
  • If napping is to be included in athlete’s routine, practitioners need to ensure that athletes have the facilities to allow for this.
  • Reviewer’s Comments

    “Although the participants of this study weren’t athletes, the conclusions from this study still provide us some guidance in terms of the effects of napping in performance. More precisely, this study demonstrates that napping during the day may provide benefits in terms of athletic performance.

    In previous issues, I have talked about the importance of providing group (Performance Digest Issue #28) and individual education about sleep hygiene and strategies to enhance sleep time and sleep quality (Performance Digest Issue #32). Increasing total sleep duration by adding naps can be a powerful tool to be used in athletes revealing bad sleep duration and quality. These athletes can trial day napping and understand how it effects their fatigue levels and night sleep. Practitioners need to be aware that for some individual’s day napping may negatively impact on night sleep and, therefore, effect their overall sleep duration/quality.”

    Want to learn more?
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    The full study can be read here.

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    Francisco Tavares

    Dr. Francisco Tavares

    Francisco is the Performance Coordinator for Sporting Lisbon and has previously worked as a S&C coach in elite rugby with the Chiefs Super Rugby franchise and the PRO14 team Glasgow Warriors. He holds a PhD from Waikato University and is a published author.

    More content by Francisco

    Do you advise your athletes and clients to take naps? If so then why, when and for how long?

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