Napping: sleepiness or sleepability?

What about you, are you a napping enthusiast?

Mateusz dach

Mateusz Dach

We are progressively coming out of lockdown. This unprecedented period will have upset a good deal of our habits. Let’s take the example of Axel, a young executive who found himself working from home overnight. But can we truly speak of remote working to qualify a similar work load which needs to be done in a productive and efficient time which is very condensed and requires to be carried out during two toddlers’ napping time? Indeed, Axel hasn’t had the time to nap since the beginning of the lockdown. Just after a mentally-exhausting morning, followed by a very quick lunch, the start of the kids’ napping time kicks off a period of work which he hopes to be as productive as possible. We can identify three types of naps, depending on the objective: preventing or prevailing against the diurnal sleepiness? Have you ever experienced that feeling of drowsiness that you usually come at the beginning of the afternoon and which can be a symptom of sleep debt?

A preventive nap is taken in anticipation of a future sleep restriction;

A compensatory nap is taken after a sleep restriction;

The “appetitive” nap is taken for comfort or pleasure. A study even showed that an “appetitive” nap, with an immediate sleep initiation, was associated to better nocturnal sleep quality, and was not linked to diurnal sleepiness. So, napping: sleepiness or sleepability? Another study which was carried out among elite athletes showed that they went to sleep faster compared to active subjects. This was the case for the first - which fits the challenge of sleeping in a new sleeping environment - and the second nap of the study. These results remained valid in mathematical models which controlled sleepiness and the amount of sleep gathered prior to the experiment. In other terms, the ability to fall asleep at one’s pleasure could be linked to a certain training, and not only to previous sleep restriction-induced pressure. As children are gradually allowed back at the nursery, Alex will make the most of this afternoon to give the “appetitive” nap a shot! Contrary to pre-conceived ideas, this could even help him enjoy a better night’s sleep tonight!                 

Mathieu Nedelec, sport scientist in charge of research projects on sleep and recovery. I teach best practices to improve sleep and performance. I will read your answers carefully and let you know when my next posts will be published.


sleep health hygiene recovery lockdown nap