The Benefits of Napping: Proper Sleep for Whole Body Health

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

The benefits of napping increase whole body health.There is ample evidence which has illustrating the consequences you can encounter if you don’t get a sufficient amount of sleep. Your immune system can become compromised while your cognitive processes may also decline. Not getting enough sleep tends to cause you to be less productive and you may even have a greater likelihood of getting into an accident due to mental lapses. Lack of sleep leads to other physiological issues as well, including depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately a great deal of the adult population get under 6 hours of sleep each night. Could the benefits of napping be the answer?

The Benefits of Napping

A controlled sleep study was conducted by a Brice Faraut. Faraut came from the Universite Paris Descartes-Sorbonne, located in France. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism from the Endocrine Society. It was the first study of its kind to present evidence that napping can have such a positive impact on health, even suggesting it can help to make-up for insufficient sleep. Faraut and his associates looked at just under a dozen non-smoking young men in good health. None of the study participants previously had a habit of taking naps. The study individuals underwent a series of sleep tests lasting three days. Each three-day series of tests were conducted twice with every participant in a laboratory setting. Lighting and food were regulated and controlled, and caffeine and alcohol were not permitted.

In one series of sleep tests, participants slept as they usually would on the first night. The following night, they were only permitted to sleep for two hours. On the final night the participants were allowed to sleep as much as they liked.

The other series of sleep tests used an almost identical routine, with the primary distinction being that participants were permitted to take two naps, 30 minutes each, on the day after they had only slept two hours. During the testing, the participants provided daily saliva and urine samples. The samples were measured for physiological state markers such as norepinephrine and interleukin-6.

Benefits of napping include a great boost to mental and physical energy, and counter the negative effects from lack of sleep.High concentrations of norepinephrine are indicative of a stress response. Tested norepinephrine levels were found to be much higher on the day after restricted sleep when compared against days after participants were allowed to sleep normally. However, this difference disappeared when participants were permitted naps following restricted sleep.

Interleukin-6 is a molecule that contributes to regulation of the immune system. Daily interleukin-6 levels also differed in relation to the amount of sleep participants received the night before; during the non-napping series of tests, interleukin-6 levels dropped after restricted sleep, while in the nap-permitted series of tests, interleukin-6 levels remained normal.

The study results suggest that napping has benefits for both dealing with stress and improving immune system function. Those who may have trouble with a lack of sleep during the nighttime hours may be able to take advantage of these health benefits of napping. A short 30 minute nap out of your day can reverse the negative hormonal impact caused by a bad night’s rest.


Dr. Lam’s Adrenal Health Perspective on Lack of Sleep

Know the benefits of nappingA lack of sleep allows stressors to build up and overwhelm your body, leading to Adrenal Fatigue. One of the challenges you must overcome during Adrenal Fatigue recovery is insomnia. When stress has gone on long enough and been severe enough to cause the body to enter a state of Adrenal Fatigue, the body’s reaction to stress, via the neuroendometabolic stress response system, will also become dysfunctional. In this case, dysfunction of the neuroaffective response component effects symptoms such as anxiety, mood swings and insomnia. The lack of sleep from insomnia creates more stress on the body, which in turn calls on the adrenal glands to try to produce more norepinephrine. The added burden on the adrenal glands exacerbates Adrenal Fatigue symptoms, including insomnia, feeding into a positive feedback loop of increasing stress and worsening symptoms.

The fact that physiological markers of stress from lack of sleep can be decreased or even return to baseline shows that benefits of napping can be powerful tools to help break out of this feedback and help in the recovery effort. Cutting down on stress from any source lessens the dysfunction of the neuroendometabolic stress response systems throughout the body, easing Adrenal Fatigue symptoms and allowing the body to focus on healing and recovery.


Source: J Clin Endocrinol Metab March 2015

© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Each person’s body and mind are different. The way they sleep and get into the rem sleep also can affect the quality and quantity of sleep. If someone is awakened after stage 3, where the brain is thought to be in a deep rest pattern, then chances are they will feel more refreshed. If, however, they are awoken during REM sleep, which is a very active stage of brain wave activity, they can feel less refreshed and less energized because they had just be engaged in a period of high brain activity while asleep.

Benefits of napping