Yes, take that nap: Study says daytime snoozing is good for the heart


Here’s another excuse to take a mid-day nap.

A new study published on Monday in the journal Heart suggests those who take daytime naps a few times a week have a lower risk of heart attack or stroke.

Story continues below

The study, which looked at 3,462 people in Switzerland, noted that this was the first population-based cohort study that looked at the link between frequent napping and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

And no, this doesn’t mean taking daytime naps every day. The authors found one to two naps per week was ideal.

READ MORE: A look at our bad sleep habits and how to fix them

“Nap frequency may help explain the discrepant findings regarding the association between napping and CVD events,” authors noted.

The study looked at participants aged 35 to 75 over a five-year period. None of them had previous heart problems and none of them were sleep-deprived, noted.

Sleeping behaviours

In an accompanying editorial for Heart not linked to the actual study, authors noted that we spend a third of our lives in sleep.

“One of the most common yet understudied sleep behaviours in human beings is daytime napping..

“While napping is traditionally viewed as a countermeasure to sleepiness and as a strategy to boost performance, especially in healthy younger adults or among shift workers, the effects of napping in middle-aged to older-aged populations are largely unknown.”

Authors noted that previous studies in the 1980s found taking a 30-minute afternoon nap could lower your risk of CVD by 30 per cent.

READ MORE: Sleepy at work? Toronto student designs a sneaky nap solution

Other studies have shown a 60-minute nap can increase alertness for up to 10 hours, the Guardian reports.

Regardless of these numbers, authors argued there are several limitations when it comes to measuring naps.

“Are they planned or unplanned? What is the purpose of the naps? Are they taken occasionally when needed or habitually as a cultural practice? Are they taken to compensate for insufficient or poor night-time sleep, or do they indicate underlying ill health?” authors of the Heart study wrote.

“Is night-time sleep quality taken into account? What is the timing, duration and frequency of the naps? Do we count a five minute ‘dozing-off’ as a nap? What is the best way to measure naps? Until we get to the answers to some of these questions, the implications of napping cannot be fully addressed.”

READ MORE: Canadian companies are using nap time as a perk to spur work

Dr. Neil Stanley, an independent sleep expert and author of How to Sleep Well, previously told Global News a short nap of 20 to 30 minutes — or a power nap — can be helpful.

“[It] can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents,” he said. “The increase in alertness following a nap may persist for a few hours.”

He says naps have limits and they should not be more than 90 minutes long.

“Sleep inertia is the feeling of grogginess and disorientation that can come with awakening from a deep sleep and can last for approximately 15 minutes to two hours,” he said. “Also, if you nap too long or too late in the day this may affect your nighttime sleep.”

Tips for all nappers

Previously speaking with Global News, sleep expert Alanna McGinn said to avoid interrupted 60-minute naps.

“That is when you are in the deepest phase of sleep in your cycle,” she said. “If you have difficulty falling asleep at night or sleeping through the night then you want to avoid daytime sleep as it will rob you of the restorative sleep you need at night.”

READ MORE: Power naps are ideal, but experts say don’t sleep more than 90 minutes — here’s why

A full sleep cycle is typically 90 minutes and throughout this snooze time, our bodies go through light and deep sleep phases.

“You want to avoid napping past 30 minutes as that’s where you begin to enter a deep phase of sleep. You’ll likely feel like you have a ‘sleep hangover’ if you wake up past this point, so limit your nap to 15 to 20 minutes,” she added.

If that isn’t enough, try the full 90.

“This time frame is perfect for shift workers who may be chronically sleep-deprived and really need the daytime sleep. Don’t forget to set your alarm with an extra five minutes for falling asleep.”

Mini naps, even 10- to 20-minute naps, can boost energy and alertness.

“However, if you experience chronic insomnia or poor sleep quality at night, napping might worsen these problems. Long or frequent naps might interfere with nighttime sleep, [but] overall, napping can benefit most people, even if you get a full night of sleep.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.