The use of a short (< 1 h) nap in improving alertness during the early morning hours in the first night shift was examined under laboratory conditions. The study contained four experimental, non-consecutive night shifts with a nap of either 50 or 30 min at 01.00 or 04.00 hours. An experimental night shift without a nap served as a control condition. Each experimental shift was followed by daytime sleep. Fourteen experienced male shift workers went through all of the experimental conditions. The results showed that the naps improved the ability to respond to visual signals during the second half of the night shift. Physiological sleepiness was alleviated by the early naps, as measured 50 min after awakening, but not at the end of the shift. Subjective sleepiness was somewhat decreased by the naps. The naps produced sleep inertia which lasted for about 10–15 min. Daytime sleep was somewhat impaired by the 50 min naps. The study shows that a nap shorter than 1 h is able to improve alertness to a certain extent during the first night shift.