One or two midday naps each week could cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes almost in half, according to new research, but napping more often than that appears to provide no added benefit. These findings were concluded when scientists examined the link between frequency of naps and the risk of different kinds of heart diseases. Their research revealed that those who occasionally napped from 5 minutes to an hour were 48 percent less likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases than those who did not nap at all.
Researchers observed napping patterns of 3,462 randomly selected people in Switzerland who were aged between 35 and 75 when the study started. One in five said they nap once or twice a week, while about three in five told researchers they don’t nap. The remaining one in five reported napping three or more days a week. During the next five years as researchers tracked participants’ heart health, they saw 155 fatal and non-fatal heart events. These included heart attacks, strokes and clogged arteries that required surgery.
Researchers from the University Hospital of Lausanne in Switzerland conducted the study that was published in Heart, the journal of the British Cardiovascular Society.
But before you start napping on the job…
The 155 heart-related events were relatively few, so that small number makes reaching real conclusions difficult. The study was an observational one, so you can’t tell your boss the findings prove naps reduce heart disease. Naps might also not be directly responsible for the difference in heart incidences among nappers and non-nappers. Healthier lifestyles rather than naps may be reason for reduced heart risk.
Some earlier studies have concluded that naps can reduce the risk of heart disease as well as improve cognitive functioning, mood, and emotional control. Other studies have reported the opposite.
This study throws a curveball.
The sleep research community is divided on the meaning of this new study. The health benefits of napping are hotly debated among researchers, says Marie-Pierre St-Onge, director of the sleep program at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City. Many argue that naps aren’t a good thing because they indicate the napper is not getting enough quality sleep during the night.
“This throws a little bit of a curveball, because they found one to two naps per week might be beneficial,” St-Onge says. She says she does not think the recent study settled the question of whether napping is actually helpful or not helpful.
Two psychiatry researchers say the research makes a contribution to the ongoing debate about the link between daytime napping and cardiovascular disease.
“While it remains premature to conclude on the appropriateness of napping for maintaining optimal heart health, the findings…offer some reassurance that the answer is probably more than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and that we have much more to learn about napping,” say the pair who weren’t involved in the study. The findings suggest “it might not only be the duration, but also the frequency that matters,” they wrote in an editorial accompanying the study in the journal Heart.