Afternoon napping improves runners endurance performance paper achieves 4th place in EJSS Best Paper Awards

Researchers in the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences at Bangor University have provided the first experimental evidence to show that napping may benefit the performance of endurance athletes. In the research, well-trained runners took an afternoon nap between a morning and an evening bout of challenging running exercise. Interestingly, the benefits of a nap were dependent on how much night-time sleep the runners normally obtained, with those having less than 7hrs benefiting. Runners that improved evening exercise performance after the nap slept less at night than those that did not improve exercise performance. It appears that the improvement in endurance performance following the afternoon nap arose in these runners because they perceived the evening exercise to be less effortful.

Napping guidelines resulting from this research propose that endurance athletes should seek to nap in the afternoon for no longer than 40 minutes and that a nap for as little as 20 minutes may still be effective. Athletes should also ensure that they wake from the nap at least 90 minutes before exercise to overcome any post-nap sleepiness.

Several reasons exist for why athletes may encounter restricted night-time sleep. For instance competition anxiety, long-haul travel, late night competition, or family obligations. This research highlights that napping may be an important, but simple, strategy to optimise endurance exercise when sleep is compromised. 

The European Journal of Sport Science Best Paper Awards are now in their third year and aim to support the mission to “disseminate high quality, innovative science and its application”. The 10 issues of volume 18, 2018 were reviewed for originality, significance, methodological rigour and potential impact. The paper, which was written by Dr Blanchfield  and other members of the Extremes Research Group, was ranked equal 4thand can be read here: ‘The influence of an afternoon nap on the endurance performance of trained runners.’

Publication date: 11 June 2019