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Does Napping Keep You Up at Night?

A study published in the September 2008 edition of The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that taking naps during the day and late afternoon does not affect the quality or amount of night time sleep for the elderly.

For the study, 414 older adults between the ages of 70-89 were asked to self report their sleeping behaviors and quality of sleep in a sleep journal.

54 percent of the study participants reported napping, with the average nap lasting about 55 minutes.

The participants that took naps did not report fewer hours of sleep at night than non-nappers. Nappers did not have trouble falling or staying asleep either.

The researchers also found that people with diabetes were two times more likely to nap than other study participants and overweight individuals tended to take longer naps.

According to lead researcher Dr. Jennifer L. Picarsic from University of Pittsburgh, the fact that diabetes effects daytime sleep is a new finding and further research will serve to find the reasons behind these results.

A similar study published in the August edition of the same journal also explored day time napping. The study followed 100 nappers between the ages of 60-89. Each participant was asked to keep a sleep journal and wear an actigraph, a device used to measure sleep patterns.

This study focused more specifically on naps taken within 2 hours of bedtime but the results were still the same, naps had no effect on quality of nighttime sleep.

The results of these two studies were somewhat surprising because sleep disorder therapy often focuses on eliminating napping, particularly in the evening, in order to provide better quality sleep for people suffering from insomnia.

According to Dr. Michael V. Vitiello of the Northwest Geriatric Education Center at University of Washington, Seattle, much more research needs to be done in order to determine the relationship between napping and general health and well being for the elderly.

In the meantime, it seems best to approach the question of whether or not to take naps on a case by case basis. Based on the results of this study, night time sleep problems may not be related to daytime naps.
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