Effects of a Nap on Nighttime Sleep and Waking Function in Older Subjects


  • This work was funded by National Institutes of Health Grants R01AG12112, R01MH45067, R01MH54619, R01AG15370, and K02MH01099.

Address correspondence to Scott S. Campbell, PhD, Weill Cornell Medical College, 21 Bloomingdale Road, White Plains, NY 10605. E-mail: sscampb@med.cornell.edu


Objectives: To examine, in older subjects, the effect on waking function of increasing 24-hour sleep amounts by providing a nap opportunity; to assess what effects an afternoon nap may have on subsequent nighttime sleep quality and composition.

Design: Two-session, within-subject laboratory design.

Setting: The study was conducted in the Laboratory of Human Chronobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Participants: Thirty-two healthy men and women aged 55 to 85.

Measurements: Polysomnography (sleep electroencephalogram), cognitive and psychomotor performance, body core temperature.

Results: Napping had little effect on subsequent nighttime sleep quality or duration, resulting in a significant increase in 24-hour sleep amounts. Such increased sleep resulted in enhanced cognitive and psychomotor performance immediately after the nap and throughout the next day.

Conclusion: A behavioral approach that adds daytime sleep to the 24-hour sleep quota seems worthy of consideration when presented with a situation in which physiological changes associated with aging may limit the duration of nighttime sleep.