Long Naps Are Bad for Heart Health

All aspects of health are interconnected. From mind and body, to diet and exercise, to teeth and eyes — everything impacts each other. We’ve written about how sleep impacts heart health before. A new study has shed more light on our understanding of how heart health and sleep interact.

Past research showed that people who napped in the afternoon once or twice a week were 48 percent less likely to have a heart attack, stroke or experience heart failure than people who didn’t. The health benefit was only seen in people who occasionally napped, not daily nappers.

Now, there is even more evidence that shorter naps are better. Many have argued for years about whether or not naps are healthy. And this new study might change your personal habits.

For those of us not in the habit of a daytime slumber, there is no convincing evidence to start,” said Dr. Zhe Pan of Guangzhou Medical Univ., the researcher in charge.

While daytime napping is common all over the world, the researchers wanted to know how healthy it is. No one was questioning a good night’s sleep. A healthy and regular nighttime sleep pattern has been linked to health benefits for decades, but what about people’s afternoons ZZZs?

A common view is that napping improves performance and counteracts the negative consequences of ‘sleep debt,’” said Dr. Pan. “Our study challenges these widely held opinions.”

The researchers looked at data from more than 313,000 people from more than 20 studies. Around 39 percent of people in the studies had taken naps. People who napped for longer than an hour and slept more than six hours a night had a 34 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than people who didn’t nap. Short naps, under an hour, did not increase someone’s heart health risks.  

The American Sleep Association said that a power nap of 15 to 30 minutes can improve energy and boost mood and procedural memory. This study didn’t find evidence to support that but doesn’t disprove it. However, it linked napping to heightened levels of inflammation, “high blood pressure, diabetes, and poor overall physical health.”

We are curious to know if the researchers accounted for the fact that many unwell people take daily naps. Was that information included in the studies they were reviewing? It could be that people who were chronically ill were napping and throwing off their results.

If these finds concern you, we suggest speaking to your doctor before making any large changes to your daily routine. Reading this may make you want to give up napping. However, if a doctor has suggested that napping could be healthy for your routine, we don’t suggest you stop without having a discussion!
September 02, 2020
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