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Power naps work, expert says

There is growing evidence that napping may improve productivity and safety at work, a sleep expert has said.

RMIT University's Dr Melinda Jackson, a registered psychologist who specialises in sleep disorders, said there is mounting evidence that napping during a shift can improve alertness and help maintain performance in the early hours.

While working at Washington State University, in the US, Jackson was part of a research team looking into the impact sleep loss has on people making critical decisions in real-world situations.

They found that sleep loss impedes the process. “Obviously [decision-making] skills are important for nurses while they’re on shift, so it’s important to make sure we can try to reduce the amount of sleep deprivation and restriction that night-shift workers are experiencing.”

She added the length of the nap and working out the best times to take one are critical to gaining the benefits. “If a nap is too long, the person can suffer sleep inertia, which leads to feelings of grogginess on awakening.”

Jackson said sleeping on the job is already encouraged in some industries. “In the aviation industry for example, pilots rostered on a long-haul flights have nap opportunities fixed into their rosters," she explained. “And in Australia, where long [travel] distances are the norm, power naps are to be actively encouraged for people [on long drives]” she explained.

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