A dose-response investigation of the benefits of napping in healthy young, middle-aged and older adults


Older adults experience more fragmented sleep, greater daytime sleepiness and, nap more often than younger adults. Little research has investigated the effects of napping on waking function in older adults. In the present study, waking cognitive performance was examined in 10 young (mean age = 28 years), 10 middle-aged (mean age = 42 years) and 12 older adults (mean age = 61 years) following 60-min, 20-min and no nap conditions. It was expected that the older adults would need a longer nap to accrue benefits. Napping led to improvements for all age groups in subjective sleepiness, fatigue and accuracy on a serial addition/subtraction task. Waking electroencephalogram (EEG) confirmed that the participants were more physiologically alert following naps. There were no age differences in subjective reports or cognitive tasks; however, older adults had higher beta and gamma in the waking EEG, suggesting that they needed increased effort to maintain performance. Overall, older adults had smaller P2 amplitudes, reflecting their difficulty in inhibiting irrelevant stimuli, and delayed latencies and smaller amplitude P300s to novel stimuli, reflecting deficits in their frontal lobe functioning. Although older adults did garner benefits from napping, there was no evidence that they required longer naps to experience improvement.

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Correspondence to Dr Kimberly A. Cote.

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Milner, C.E., Cote, K.A. A dose-response investigation of the benefits of napping in healthy young, middle-aged and older adults. Sleep Biol. Rhythms 6, 2–15 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1479-8425.2007.00328.x

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Key words

  • aging
  • daytime napping
  • event-related potentials
  • quantitative electroencephalography
  • sleep