Sleepy people of the world, rejoice! New research shows that taking daytime naps once or twice a week can actually lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. There are a few caveats, though.
Apparently, the health benefits of napping have been "hotly contested" for some time, according to Science Daily. There have been several published studies before claiming that napping is good for your heart health, but many of those didn't take into account napping frequency or focused on the wrong things. This new study, from the journal Heart, was more comprehensive.
Researchers took a look at "the association between napping frequency and average nap duration and the risk of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular disease 'events,' such as heart attack, stroke, or heart failure." They kept track of these metrics in 3,462 randomly chosen people from Lausanne, Switzerland.
The participants were between the ages of 35 and 75 and were recruited between 2003 and 2006 for the study. They were each examined between 2009 and 2012 and their sleep and nap patterns were collected on a weekly basis. Then, their health was monitored for an average of five years.
Man, it takes a lot of time and patience to accurately complete a scientific study about human health. Anyway, in one week, 58 percent said they didn't nap at all, 19 percent said they took one or two naps, 12 percent took three to five naps, and 11 percent said they took six to seven. Who are these people napping six to seven times a week? I need to be more like them.
People who took frequent naps (between three and seven per week) "tended to be older, male, smokers, weigh more, and to sleep for longer at night than those who said they didn't nap during the day."
Over the course of the study, there were 155 fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular disease "events." It was found that people who occasionally napped, meaning they took a nap once or twice a week, had almost half the risk of heart attack, stroke, or heart failure when compared with those who didn't nap at all.
This fact remained true even after researchers took other possibly important factors into consideration, like age, nighttime sleep duration, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
So there you have it, folks! Napping is good for your heart — in moderation. I tend not to nap during the week... Maybe I should start, eh? Here's the thing, though. The fact that this study found that napping is good for you doesn't mean you should do it all the time. It found no association with heart health for more nap frequency or length.
In other words, taking naps six or seven times a week isn't necessarily better for you than taking one or two. One or two seems to be the sweet spot. And it also doesn't matter how long those naps are. Whether they were five-minute power naps or one-hour snooze sessions, the results were the same.
Of course, as Science Daily is careful to point out, this is an observational study and cannot make the claim that napping actually causes heart health. "But nap frequency may help to explain the differing conclusions reached by researchers about the impact of napping on heart health," according to researchers.
Not to mention, how do you even define a nap? Is it closing your eyes and relaxing for ten minutes, even if you don't fall into a deep sleep? Do you have to be lying down in a bed and actually snoring-and-drooling asleep? Does it count as a nap if you zone out while your most boring friend is talking at you?
Clearly, there is more work to be done on this subject, but for the moment, rest easy...during the day, once or twice a week...for between five minutes and one hour...and that may help keep that heart healthy!