Is daytime napping an effective strategy to improve sport-related cognitive and physical performance and reduce fatigue? A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.
Mesas AE, Núñez de Arenas-Arroyo S, Martinez-Vizcaino V, Garrido-Miguel M, Fernández-Rodríguez R, Bizzozero-Peroni B, Torres-Costoso AI. Br J Sports Med. 2023 Apr;57(7):417-426. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2022-106355. Epub 2023 Jan 23. PMID: 36690376.
Napping between 30 and 60 minutes improves cognitive and physical performance and reduces perceived fatigue.
Adequate sleep is necessary for optimal sports performance. Napping after a night of normal sleep or with partial sleep deprivation can improve physical and cognitive sports performance. A meta-analysis of clinical trials testing the benefits of napping may help us understand how much napping helps and how to optimize a nap.
The researchers completed a systematic review and meta-analysis to understand daytime napping affects cognitive and physical performance and the perception of fatigue. They also considered the effects of nap duration and timing before sports activity.
Researchers performed a comprehensive literature search for clinical trials with(1) participants 18 years of age or older, (2) napping or daytime sleep as an intervention, (3) a non-napping comparison, and (4) an outcome of either cognitive or physical performance, or perception of fatigue. Two researchers evaluated the quality of the included studies using the Cochrane Collaboration tool for assessing the risk of bias. Data from each study were extracted and analyzed.
The authors analyzed 22 clinical trials. The sample size of included studies ranged from 7 to 20 participants, totaling 291 male participants across all studies. Cognitive performance was primarily measured with digital cancellation or reaction time. Physical performance was measured primarily by a 5-minute run test, and fatigue was primarily measured by the rate of perceived exertion test.
Napping improved cognitive and physical performance and reduced the perception of fatigue. The most effective napping duration ranged from 30 and <60 minutes and occurred more than 60 minutes before a sports activity. These results were true after a night of normal sleep or partial sleep deprivation.
Overall, this study supports that napping benefits cognition and sports performance. Napping also decreases one’s perception of fatigue. Surprisingly, all of the participants were young men. Hence, whether these results apply to other genders and older adults is unclear. This study also doesn’t address if a nap helps when someone is significantly sleep deprived.
Clinicians should know that napping 30 to 60 minutes at least an hour before an activity may improve performance if the person had a night of normal sleep or partial sleep deprivation.
Questions for Discussion
Have you advocated for napping in your current clinical practice? What strategies have you found particularly helpful in implementing napping?
Written by Kyle Harris
Reviewed by Jeffrey Driban
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