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Med Educ. 2013 Oct;47(10):1013-21. doi: 10.1111/medu.12256.

Can taking a nap during a night shift counteract the impairment of executive skills in residents?

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Department of Life, Health and Environmental Sciences, University of L'Aquila, L'Aquila, Italy.



Long and repeated periods of sustained wakefulness constitute a serious problem for shift workers in general and for medical interns in particular. In a real clinical setting, we investigated whether taking a long nap can counteract the negative consequences of acute sleep deprivation on executive skills in residents.


Fifty-four interns at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of L'Aquila (Italy) participated in the study. Thirty-two participants who worked the night shift were assigned to a wake or nap group (WG, NG). The remaining 22 participants, who maintained regular diurnal working hours, were assigned to a control sleep group (SG). Each participant performed task switching and go/no-go tasks in three sessions, carried out on 3 consecutive days, to provide baseline and experimental (after the night shift [WG and NG]) data and data subsequent to having a normal night's sleep at home (SG) and subsequent to recovery (after a night's sleep at home). The dependent variables were submitted to a mixed-model analysis of variance (anova).


After the night shift, SG and NG participants demonstrated better performance speed at task switching than WG participants. Moreover, WG participants showed lower accuracy throughout the study protocol compared with SG and NG participants.


Taking a long nap proved to be effective in ameliorating the deterioration in executive skills that accompanies night shift-working in interns. This finding raises the two entwined issues of how long a nocturnal nap should be and when it should best occur in order to support the maintenance of an effective process of consolidation of new executive skills.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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