Naps aren’t just for babies. As it turns out, even a short siesta can boost the immune system and ward off disease.
Dr. Brice Faraut, one of the authors of a study recently published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM)., found indicators that even a 30 minute nap could switch some of the negative side-effects of insufficient sleep. “Our data suggests a 30-minute nap can reverse the hormonal impact of a night of poor sleep,” he says. “This is the first study that found napping could restore biomarkers of neuroendocrine and immune health to normal levels.”
Norepinephrine, the hormone and neurotransmitter, and interleukin-6, a protein, are both affected by lack of sleep. Norepinephrine increases blood pressure and plays a role when the body goes into fight-of-flight mode. Interleukin-6 has antiviral qualities.
The study looked at eleven men between the ages of twenty-five to thirty-two. For one part of the study the men were allowed to sleep for two hours. In the other portion they were allowed to have two 30 minute naps following a night where their sleep was limited to two hours. Researchers found that on nights when men were restricted to two hours of rest their norepinephrine levels increased. In contrast, norepinephrine levels remained stable when the men were given naps. Interleukin-6 levels dropped when the men were sleep deprived but stayed at normal levels when they were allowed to nap.
“Napping may offer a way to counter the damaging effects of sleep restriction by helping the immune and neuroendocrine systems to recover,” says Faraut. “The findings support the development of practical strategies for addressing chronically sleep-deprived populations, such as night and shift workers.”
Takeaway Tip: Sleep plays a vital role in our ability to focus and stay healthy. If you can’t get the recommended seven to nine hours, try to shut your eyes for half an hour during your day.