Who doesn’t love an afternoon nap? But with work and life, it’s not always practical to slip off to bed for forty winks, but making time for napping could be pretty beneficial for our health.
We already know that naps could help improve productivity, but a Swiss study has now found that short additional sleeps cut the risk of heart attack and stroke by almost half.
The research, of 3,462 people aged between 35 and 75, and published in the journal Heart, followed the group for an average of five years and tracked their sleeping patterns and general health.
Of the people being studied, 58% did not nap, about one in five (19%) had taken one to two naps during the previous week, and about one in 10 (12%) had taken three to five. Some 11% took six to seven naps per week.
Over the five-year follow-up, there were 155 cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.
The researchers found that those who napped once or twice a week were 48% less likely to experience these health issues, even when other factors were taken into account.
But don’t be thinking you can make like the Spanish and schedule in a Siesta every day as researchers also found there was no benefit for more frequent snoozing compared to having no daytime shut-eye at all.
Writing in the journal Heart, lead researcher Dr Nadine Häusler, from the University Hospital of Lausanne, said: “Subjects who nap once or twice per week have a lower risk of incident cardiovascular disease events, while no association was found for more frequent napping or napping duration.
“Nap frequency may help explain the discrepant findings regarding the association between napping and CVD events.”
Commenting on the study in an associated editorial, Dr Yue Leng from the University of California at San Francisco, said the research could have “potentially significant public health implications”.
She said: “[This research] contributes to the ongoing debate on the health implications of napping, and suggests that it might not only be the duration, but also the frequency that matters.
“While there remain more questions than answers, it is time to start unveiling the power of naps for a supercharged heart.”
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But before you start believing napping is the ultimate key to better heart health Vanessa Smith, senior cardiac nurse for the British Heart Foundation, says more research is needed before we can definitively draw that conclusion.
“Many of us might aim to grab an extra 40 winks here and there, but more evidence is needed before we can say that regular napping can help to reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke,” she said.
“However, there are many other lifestyle changes you can make which we know help to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy.
“Doing 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week and eating a healthy Mediterranean-based diet can reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
“We also know that treating high blood pressure and managing your cholesterol can reduce your risk of life-threatening heart and circulatory diseases.”
So while a quick disco nap should not replace diet and exercise in terms of your overall heart health plan, if you’re in need of some snooze time, then go ahead and take it.