A recent study published in Heart, a British medical journal, shows people who take an afternoon nap once or twice a week have nearly 50 percent less risk of stroke and heart disease than people who don’t get their daytime naps.
It is a common knowledge that lack of sleep affects not only a person’s energy but also his overall health. It also increases the risk of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.
Though napping once or twice a week is good for one’s health, the researchers said that frequent naps have no benefits for heart health.
“In fact, we found that frequent nappers had initially a higher risk for incident cardiovascular disease,” said lead author Nadine Hausler from the University Hospital of Lausanne in Switzerland. “However, when we took sociodemographic, lifestyle and cardiovascular risk factors into account, this increased risk disappeared.”
The main focus of the research was the relationship between frequency of naps, average duration and the risk of stroke or heart attack. The research team kept track of 3,400 people between 35 to 75 years old who do not have a history of sleep deprivation.
This study lasted for five years and during the entire experiment, 155 fatal and nonfatal cases of strokes or heart disease were recorded. Initially, researchers assumed that frequent naps increase one’s heart risk by 67% but after taking other risk factors into account, the initial risk disappeared.
“This association held true after taking account of potentially influential factors, such as age, and night-time sleep duration, as well as other cardiovascular disease risks, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. And it didn’t change after factoring in excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and regularly sleeping for at least six hours a night,” Dr. Hausler explained.
However, the length of these naps does not have a significant impact on the findings. There’s no “gold” standard for what is considered a nap. It can be a quick five-minute nap or an hour of sleep.
According to Dr. Hausler, taking a nap releases stress, which may be the reason why occasional naps have a positive health impact.
Naveed Sattar, a medical professor at the University of Glasglow, agreed that infrequent naps are great for one’s health. “Those who nap one to two times per week have healthier lifestyles or organised lives that allow them to have these naps, whereas those who nap nearly every day are likely to be more sick,” he said.
“This means the former pattern of occasional napping is intentional and the latter of more regular napping likely represents sub-clinical illness linked to poor lifestyle. This would then explain the different risks,” Sattar added.
In conclusion, the study stated that “The study of napping is a challenging but also a promising field with potentially significant public health implications. While there remain more questions than answers, it is time to start unveiling the power of naps for a supercharged heart.”
Though the findings of the study can be a little confusing, one thing is for sure: having too much of anything won’t yield positive results, especially on your health. So the next time you feel exhausted, don’t hesitate to grab a pillow and take that power nap. Just don’t overdo it.