Even after only sleeping for two hours a night, a half an hour nap can restore your protein and hormone levels to normal, a new study has found.

Napping is good for you, cats do it all the time and look how happy they are! Image via The Kenyon Thrill.

Sleep deprivation seems to become more and more common in recent times, due to the agitated and hectic schedule from our modern lives. Although in a minority of all cases, sleep deprivation actually improves overall mood and alertness, it is generally associated with weight gain, poor immunity and cardiovascular disease. Therefore, understanding its effects and how to fight it can help improve the lives of millions of people. Whether napping is good or bad depends on a lot of things.

According to a National Health Interview Survey, 30% of all adults sleep an average of 6 hours or less, and are suffering from either acute or chronic sleep deprivation. Now, a new study has found that a short sleep can do wonders for your health, if you’re not getting the recommended 7-9 hours of daily sleep.

“Our data suggests a 30-minute nap can reverse the hormonal impact of a night of poor sleep,” said Brice Faraut from the Université Paris Descartes-Sorbonne Paris Cité in France, who was involved in the research, in a press release. “This is the first study that found napping could restore biomarkers of neuroendocrine and immune health to normal levels.”

The research had a pretty small sample size – it analyzed only 11 healthy men, aged between 25 and 32, who underwent testing in a sleep lab, where light and diet were both strictly controlled.

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Lack of sleep leads to an increase in levels of norepinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter involved in the body’s fight-or-flight response to stress. Norepinephrine increases heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar. However, after only a 30 minute nap. The same trend was observed with other hormones as well – napping restored the body’s normal levels.

“Napping may offer a way to counter the damaging effects of sleep restriction by helping the immune and neuroendocrine systems to recover,” said Faraut in the release. “The findings support the development of practical strategies for addressing chronically sleep-deprived populations, such as night and shift workers.”

While the sample size is not large enough to draw some definite conclusions, it seems that napping has major health benefits, especially if you’re not getting enough sleep. Previous research has shown that napping plays an important role in memory consolidation and restoring brain energy.

Considering how much we’ve learned about the advantages at napping and that a UK University has already opened a napping room for its students, I’d expect more such rooms opening at institutions and companies throughout the world.

Journal Reference: Brice Faraut, Samir Nakib, Catherine Drogou, Maxime Elbaz, Fabien Sauvet, Jean-Pascal De Bandt, and Damien Léger. Napping Reverses the Salivary Interleukin-6 and Urinary Norepinephrine Changes Induced by Sleep Restriction. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2014-2566