Napping *This* Much May Help You Fend Off Heart Disease
It's hard to find a better form of self-care than a late-morning snooze, midday nap, or afternoon siesta. And yet, many of us deprive ourselves of naps on the reg. We tend to think of them as something reserved only for babies and angsty teenagers, and if we do nap, we think of it as a luxury—one that's really only appropriate on a rainy Sunday or when we're on vacation.
But a new study published in the journal Heart, showing that naps are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, may force us to rethink the role of naps altogether.
Is napping good for our health?
Answering the question above isn't an easy one. In fact, the health benefits of napping have been a hot debate among scientists for years. Previous research has been inconclusive, and many argue that other studies have failed to consider napping frequency as an important factor.
To remedy this, the study's research team collected data from over 3,000 people—all between 35 and 70 years old—and analyzed the link between napping frequency and average nap duration and the risk of cardiovascular disease. After five years of data collection, the results showed some interesting trends.
First, about 58% of the participants didn't nap at all. Occasional napping (aka, one or two naps a week) was associated with a 48% decreased risk of having a cardiovascular disease event, such as a heart attack or stroke. Frequent nappers (people who took anywhere from three to seven naps a week) tended to be older and male and also appeared to weight more, smoke more often, and have a 67% greater risk for heart disease.
Can naps help prevent heart disease?
The decreased risk of CV disease observed among occasional nappers remained after the researchers adjusted for other potentially influencing factors such as age, disease risks, and hour of sleep per night. Interestingly, though, the 67% increase in CV disease risk for frequent nappers disappeared when those same factors were taken into account, suggesting that napping may have a positive impact on CV disease.
This is an observational study, so we can't assume that napping directly caused the decreased risk of CV disease, but this does contribute to the ongoing debate over the health benefits of napping. And as the authors of the study wrote, it also "suggests that it might not only be the duration but also the frequency that matters."
According to the authors, who are from the University of California at San Francisco, the study of napping is extremely challenging since it largely depends on self-reported data. "While there remain more questions than answers, it is time to start unveiling the power of naps for a supercharged heart," they wrote.
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