Night-shift workers are prone to sleep deprivation, misalignment of circadian rhythms, and subsequent sleepiness and sleep-related performance deficits. The purpose of this narrative systematic review is to critically review and synthesize the scientific literature regarding improvements in sleepiness and sleep-related performance deficits following planned naps taken during work-shift hours by night workers and to recommend directions for future research and practice. We conducted a literature search using the Medline, PsychInfo, CINAHL, Cochrane Library, and Health and Safety Science Abstracts databases and included English-language quasi-experimental and experimental studies that evaluated the effects of a nighttime nap taken during a simulated or actual night-work shift. We identified 13 relevant studies, which consisted primarily of small samples and mixed designs. Most investigators found that, despite short periods of sleep inertia immediately following naps, night-shift napping led to decreased sleepiness and improved sleep-related performance. None of the studies examined the effects of naps on safety outcomes in the workplace. Larger-scale randomized clinical trials of night-shift napping and direct safety outcomes are needed prior to wider implementation.
Keywords: napping; performance; psychomotor vigilance; sleep; sleepiness; systematic review.