Power naps for insomniacs

Flinders researchers are investigating whether power naps can cure insomnia. Image: Shutterstock.
Flinders researchers are investigating whether power naps can cure insomnia. Image: Shutterstock.

Daytime naps may hold the key to treating insomnia, Flinders University researchers believe.

In a world-first study, Flinders Postdoctoral Research Associate Dr Nicole Lovato is recruiting patients to test the role of brief daytime sleeps as an adjunct therapy to improve the success of sleep restriction therapy, a main behavioural treatment for insomnia.

While sleep restriction is highly effective, Dr Lovato said many insomniacs struggle to adhere to the therapy due to significant daytime sleepiness.

“Sleep restriction therapy limits the time an insomniac is allowed to spend in bed to the time they report sleeping for,” Dr Lovato, based at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health at the Repatriation General Hospital, said.

“Some insomniacs, for example, may be in bed for nine hours but report only sleeping for six so their time in bed will be restricted to six hours. This restriction of time in bed builds up their homeostatic need for sleep and helps them sleep across the night,” she said.

“Even though we know this treatment works very well, a lot of patients feel so sleepy that they find it difficult to adhere to their new bedtime, which is often much later than the time they normally go to bed.

“We’re hoping that daytime napping will make it easier for patients to adhere to their bedtime and get through the day while they’re undertaking sleep restriction therapy.”

As part of the study, eligible participants will be required to nap for no more than 20 minutes in the afternoon, before 5pm.

Unlike hour-long afternoon naps which can interfere with night-time sleep, Dr Lovato said short 20-minute sleeps result in immediate, short-term benefits that do not impact on sleep at night.

She said it is hoped the findings will uncover a new drug-free adjunct treatment to behavioural therapy.

“As insomnia can significantly impair daytime function and is associated with psychological effects such as depression and anxiety, anything we can do to improve treatments, especially non-drug treatments, is something we should focus on.”

People aged 18-85 who are interested in participating in the study can email: sleep@flinders.edu.au

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Corporate Engage Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences News Research School of Psychology

One thought on “Power naps for insomniacs

  1. To Whom it may concern,
    I have suffered from and continue to suffer from extreme insomnia. The 20 minute power naps have only worked a couple of times for me but overall any sleep during the day time results in me being up all night. I get roughly 2-3 hours of sleep a night. Most sleeping tablets that I have been given, take 5 -6 hours to kick in in the early stage (first couple of times I take them) and then my body seems to fight them and they don’t have any impact other than making me feel rather sluggish the next day. I have recently been diagnosed with depression due to the lack of sleep I get and find that I don’t seem to fit in any studies. I have seen two psychologists and two psychiatrists about my condition to no avail. I have been noticing that as each decade goes by I seem to manage to get less sleep. I have been able to trace my insomnia back to my early twenties and now reaching 50, I dread what that decade has in store for me. I have doctors who tell me to lose weight but don’t seem to appreciate how hard that is when your constantly exhausted and craving fatty foods plus no desire to exercise. I just wish more GP’s were made aware of how hard it is for someone with insomnia to cope during the day and just manage their routines let alone their job. If you wish more information please feel free to contact me. Thank You, Rob…

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