And now, more evidence that most adults are just overgrown toddlers. Much like cranky 2-year-olds, we grown-ups are a little better at tolerating minor frustrations after a nap, according to researchers from the University of Michigan, who published a study this week in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
At a sleepy time of day — 1 p.m. — the study participants gathered in the lab, where they completed, among other things, a purposefully irritating test, designed to measure their stamina for tolerating frustration. They were presented with geometric designs on a computer screen, which they were told to draw on a sheet of paper, without tracing any line twice or lifting their pencil from their paper. For about half the designs they saw, this was an impossible task. But the researchers kept track of how long they tried.
After this, some of the study volunteers took an hour-long nap, while the rest watched an hour-long nature documentary, and then everyone took the same tests again, including the impossible-drawings one. Before the nap (or the nature doc), the participants tried drawing the unsolvable designs for about a minute, on average, before giving up. When the people who watched the nature documentary tried again, they gave up after about 45 seconds — the nappers, on the other hand, kept at it for twice as long as the no-nappers, for about 90 seconds.
As usual, more research is needed before anything definitive can be said here; this admission is in the title of the study itself: “Napping to modulate frustration and impulsivity: A pilot study.” That said, it’s an intriguing insight into the potential calming powers of the angry nap.