Directors: Antonio M. Battro and Kurt W. Fischer
Program officer: María Lourdes Majdalani
Napping patterns of college age students: a preliminary study of the second year of USMA Class 2007
Napping is known to be an effective strategy to combat sleep debt, especially when nocturnal sleep is difficult to obtain due to operational constraints. In the case of students attending the US Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, NY, the highly demanding schedule imposed on them results in a chronic sleep burden. This study focuses on napping patterns during the second year of their studies at USMA, i.e., two 30-day data collection periods, in the fall of 2004 and spring of 2005. At USMA, classes begin at 07:35 and finish at 15:50 (with a lunch break between 11:45 and 12:45). Depending on their schedule, cadets may have hour-long periods without classes. Participants in the study were a stratified sample of the 2007 USMA class who are graduating in 2007 (n=80). Results showed that cadets received an average of 5.4 hours of daily sleep on school nights. Their sleep debt continued to accumulate during weekends, although nightly sleep increased to 6.7 hours. A large proportion of cadets (71%) napped on a regular basis (on average 0.25 naps per day for school nights, decreasing to 0.15 during weekends). Nap frequency and duration was related to gender and showed a biphasic daily oscillatory change that was consistent for both males and females. We postulate that cadet napping patterns were mostly compensatory, rather than prophylactic or appetitive in nature, and were related to the rigorous activity schedule imposed on them. Further analysis revealed that napping was not related to differences in amount of nightly sleep received by cadets. Nappers (napping not counted) received the same amount of nighttime sleep as did non-nappers. However, if napping was combined with nightly sleep, nappers received on average 20% more sleep than non-nappers. The study suggests that napping behavior is not related to severity of sleep deprivation per se, but also reflects individual napping tendencies. On-going analyses address the relationship between sleep and napping with academic scores and performance.