The case of the long nap

I got a kick out of this little tidbit from the New York Times (For the Best Pick-Me-Up, Lie Down)

A cup of strong coffee might make you feel wide awake, but a small study suggests that for improved physical and mental performance, an afternoon nap works better.

To that point I was on board. I don’t drink coffee but I do like to grab a 10-15 minute nap in the afternoon when I can. I find it especially refreshing.

But then when I read the details I was a little surprised:

…[S]cientists randomly divided the subjects into three groups. The first took a nap from 1 to 3 p.m. At 3, the second group took a 200-milligram caffeine pill, and the third took a placebo. The subjects repeated the tasks they had been taught earlier… [and] nappers were best by a wide margin…
“People think they’re smarter on caffeine,” said Sara C. Mednick, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and the lead author of the study, which appeared in the Nov. 3 issue of Behavioral Brain Research. “But this study is a strong argument for taking a nap instead of having a cup of coffee.”

A 2 hour nap seems ridiculous. Who has time for it in any case? And if the issue is productivity I think there’s a pretty good argument to skip the nap and take a quick coffee break instead.

I checked out the abstract and found that the napping period was 60-90 minutes, which is still pretty excessive. This is from one of those $6000+ Elsevier journals so I have no reasonable way of finding out the details.

In any case I think Mednick is giving us cat-nappers a bad name.

December 2, 2008

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *