Scheduled for Research Consortium Health Poster Session, Thursday, March 15, 2007, 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM, Convention Center: Exhibit Hall Poster Area I

Power Napping: Effects on Cognitive Ability and Stress Levels Among College Students

Emily Rolston1, Judy R. Sandlin1, Michael Sandlin1 and Rosanne Keathley2, (1)Liberty University, Big Island, VA, (2)Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX

Recent research suggests that 70 million Americans are believed to be sleep deprived. In addition, more automobile accidents are now caused by drowsy than drunk drivers. College students are not immune to this problem. Sleep deprivation is a current and severe health problem among college students. Various factors that contribute to the sleep problems of college students have been identified. These include stress, poor time management, poor sleep habits, and environment. Researchers have investigated a number of sleep deprivation issues including gender differences in the specific sleep problems and methods of coping with sleep deprivation. More women than men report an inability to stay asleep and more morning tiredness. Men are more likely than women to ignore sleep problems. The most common method of coping with the lack of sleep for both genders is nap taking. Some say that taking a nap will keep one awake at night and cause him to be unable to go to sleep at his normal time. Others contend that a nap provides an extra boost but only when one knows how, when, and where to take a good nap. As can be seen, nap taking is a controversial topic. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of two methods of nap taking - Relaxation Visualization and Tension Relaxation - on the cognitive abilities and stress levels of college students. More specifically, the effects of a daily power nap were assessed. A power nap is a 30-minute exercise that yields the benefit of up to four hours of restorative sleep. A control group was used to establish baseline information. All subjects completed a sleep test used to detect symptoms of sleep disorders and kept a sleep journal throughout the duration of the study. Cognitive ability was tested using self-administered short-term memory word test and stress level was assessed using a 15-item stress questionnaire. Results indicate that nap taking - Relaxation Visualization or Tension Relaxation - is an effective coping strategy for college students. Subjects in both nap taking groups had higher cognitive scores and lower stress levels when compared to the control group. Perhaps the most interesting findings came from the qualitative information provided in the sleep journals of the students. Subjects reported being refreshed by their nap with no disruption in nighttime sleep cycle. Subjects also confirmed previously documented causes of sleep deprivation among college students.
Keyword(s): college level issues, disease prevention/wellness, health education college/univ

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