|Emma McGowan NatureCity author & contributor|
Lack of sleep is associated with a variety of health problems, including higher risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression. A recent study suggests that napping may help lower stress levels and boost the immune systems of men who had a poor nights sleep the previous night.
Participants in the study included 11 healthy men between the ages of 25 and 32. They completed two different sleep-testing sessions in a laboratory. For the first session, the men slept only two hours and did not take a nap the next day. For the second session, they slept two hours and then were allowed two 30-minute naps the next day. Meals and lighting were strictly controlled for both sessions.
In order to determine how hormone levels changed, the researchers measured urine and saliva. They found that the men had a 2.5 times increase in norepinephrine levels after the two hour sleep night. Norepinephrine is a hormone and neurotransmitter that helps control the body’s fight or flight response. It also increases heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
However, when the researchers measured the same hormones after the men took naps, they found no changes.
The researchers also noted decreases in levels of interleukin-6 after the restricted sleep night. Interleukin-6 is a protein with antiviral properties that is found in saliva. Following the naps, there were no changes.
Researchers from the Université Paris Descartes-Sorbonne Paris Cité conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on February 10, 2015, in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Lack of sleep has been linked in previous studies with increased weight gain, faster cognitive decline, increased blood pressure, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.