The effect of nap frequency on daytime sleep architecture

Physiol Behav. 2012 Aug 20;107(1):40-4. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.05.021. Epub 2012 May 31.


It is well documented that the quality and quantity of prior sleep influence future sleep. For instance, nocturnal sleep restriction leads to an increase in slow wave sleep (SWS) (i.e. SWS rebound) during a subsequent sleep period. However, few studies have examined how prior napping affects daytime sleep architecture. Because daytime naps are recommended for management of disrupted sleep, understanding the impact of napping on subsequent sleep may be important. We monitored sleep-wake patterns for one week with actigraphy followed by a 75-minute polysomnographically-recorded nap. We found that greater nap frequency was correlated with increased Stage 1 and decreased SWS. We categorized subjects based on nap frequency during the prior week (0 nap, 1 to 2 naps, and 3 to 4 naps) and found differences in Stage 1, Stage 2, and SWS between groups. Subjects who took no naps had the greatest amount of SWS, those who took 1 to 2 naps had the most Stage 2 sleep, and those who took 3 to 4 naps had the most Stage 1. While correlations were not found between nap frequency and nocturnal sleep measures, frequent napping was associated with increased subjective sleepiness. Therefore, frequent napping appears to be associated with lighter daytime sleep and increased sleepiness during the day. Speculatively, low levels of daytime sleepiness and increased SWS in non-nappers may help explain why these individuals choose not to nap.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actigraphy
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep Stages / physiology*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Wakefulness / physiology*
  • Young Adult