Most of us at one time or another have experienced an occasional restless, sleepless night. For the estimated 50-70 million US adults who have sleep or wakefulness disorder it can have serious health consequences.
Chronic lack of sleep can lead to depression, high blood pressure, weight gain and increased risk of developing diabetes among other things.
In a study conducted by the University of Michigan, the researchers examined the effects of having a nap on emotional control. The 40 individuals, ages 18-50, were asked to sustain a consistent sleep schedule for three nights before the start of the test.
The participants were asked to answer questions about mood, feeling impulsive, sleepiness and complete tasks on a computer. They were randomly assigned the possibility to have a 60 minute nap or no nap. They were then given the same tasks again and observed by research assistants.
Those who had had a nap took more time to solve a task than those who had not napped and were less willing to take the time to finish it. The ones that napped also reported feeling less impulsive.
Combined with previous research demonstrating the negative effects of sleep deprivation, results from the U-M study indicate that staying awake for an extended period of time hinders people from controlling negative emotional responses, said Jennifer Goldschmied, the study's lead author.
"Our results suggest that napping may be a beneficial intervention for individuals who may be required to remain awake for long periods of time by enhancing the ability to persevere through difficult or frustrating tasks," said Goldschmied, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology.