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Can a Nap Improve Endurance Performance in Runners?

Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.

We know that sleep impacts cognitive performance, physical health, and mental health. A Harvard study shows that continued sleep deprivation can increase risk for many chronic health problems, like obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

It’s no surprise to learn that athletes who prioritize sleep enjoy a number of competitive benefits, from better reaction times and increased speed and accuracy to lower risk of injury and fewer mental errors.

Do Naps Make a Difference?

While much research has been done on the effects of overnight sleep, an infographic by YLM Sport Science raises the question, How does napping impact endurance performance?

Let’s take a closer look at their findings below…

“On two occasions, 11 runners completed treadmill running for 30 minutes at 75% VO2max in the morning, returning that evening to run for 20 minutes at 60% VO2max, and then to exhaustion at 90% VO2max.”

    • On one trial, the runners had an afternoon nap approximately an hour-and-a-half before the evening exercise.
    • The control group of runners did not.

The study found that napping did not improve time to exhaustion in all runners. The data indicated that, “The benefits of a nap were dependent on night-time sleep. Runners that improved endurance performance after a nap slept less at night than those that did not improve endurance performance.”

Among runners that improved their performance, ratings of perceived exertion were lower during the time-to-exhaustion on “Nap” than “Control” compared to runners that did not improve.

The Study Concludes…

Ultimately, the study concluded that a short afternoon nap improves endurance performance in runners that obtain less than seven hours of night-time sleep. Napping may be an important strategy to optimize endurance exercise when sleep is compromised.

Schedule With Dr. Rosemary Buckle

Need to see a sports medicine doctor? Schedule an appointment with Dr. Rosemary Buckle at Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics by calling (713) 756-5546.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.