They say if you snooze, you lose — but this new napping hack just might be the winning formula for sleep-deprived moms and dads.
A recent study on the effects of taking two brief naps as opposed to one long nap during a graveyard work shift — or a night from hell with a screaming newborn — found that scheduling 90- and 30-minute sleep sessions was more beneficial than catching Zs for a straight 120 minutes.
“This study found that a split nap ending at 3:00 a.m. helps to ameliorate the effects of extended drowsiness and fatigue,” read the June 2023 report led by Sanae Oriyama of Hiroshima University in Japan.
The researcher studied the napping patterns of 41 adult women who were subject to a 16-hour overnight stay — from 4 p.m. until 9 a.m.— in a windowless, soundproof and temperature-controlled laboratory to determine the correlation between sleep quality, alertness and performance.
Oriyama granted some study participants a single 120-minute nap at 10 p.m., while others were given two 90- and 30-minute naps at 10:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m., respectively. There was, additionally, a faction of participants who received no nap time.)
During each waking hour of the study, members were asked to take a Uchida-Kraepelin test, or UKT — a timed, basic math exam meant to measure speed and accuracy in performing a task.
Oriyama found that folks who were given two solid hours of shuteye, starting at 10 p.m. and ending at midnight, experienced drowsiness at the 4 a.m. mark. However, the women who were asked to nap for 90 minutes — from 10:30 p.m. until midnight, then again for 30 minutes from 2:30 a.m. until 3 a.m. — staved off drowsiness until 6 a.m.
While members from both the single and split nap groups expressed “significantly heightened” fatigue throughout the 16-hour experiment, those from the split group experienced it at a lower intensity than the others.
“A 90-minute nap to maintain long-term performance and a 30-minute nap to maintain lower fatigue levels and fast reactions as a strategic combination of naps can be valuable for early morning work efficiency and safety,” Oriyama told the Jerusalem Post.
Her objective was to advise late-night staffers, as well as new parents, on best napping practices for optimal results.
“The results of this study can be applied not only to night-shift workers but also to minimize sleep deprivation fatigue in mothers raising infants,” she added. “I want to be able to combine multiple naps, depending on the type of work and time of day, and choose naps that are effective at reducing drowsiness, fatigue and maintaining performance.”
Taking naps as an adult has become a crucial highlight of the average American’s life.
In fact, a recent poll of 2,000 U.S. residents found that more than 26% can’t get through a work shift without taking a nap.
And new parents desperate for sleep are almost always searching for inventive ways to hit the hay while caring for their swaddled little ones.
This month, a clever mommy shared her viral “best mom hack ever” on a British podcast, saying she tricked her husband into doing all of their newborn daughter’s early morning feedings in order to sneak in a few extra winks.
The podcast hosts applauded the sly sleeper for “winning at mom life.”
Child sleep experts have even suggested that moms and dads put their bundles of joy down for bed at midnight, allowing the adults to get some nighttime rest.
“When considering if you should put your baby to bed at midnight you have to ask yourself this question: Can you meet ALL of their needs with a bedtime routine that starts at midnight? Are you sure you can consistently meet their sleep, milk and food needs for their age and stage over the 24-hour period?” parenting professional Cat Cubie said during a 2021 podcast.
“If you can answer yes to these final two questions,” she continued, “there is no reason not to try putting your baby to bed at midnight. In fact, you could remove ‘midnight’ and put in any time of the day or night.”