For a lot of us, a daytime nap has become a part of our lifestyle. It helps recharge us for the latter half of the day and really helps make up for sleep lost due to work, kids, or other chores. However, napping for longer than an hour might not be good for our health and is linked to a higher risk of heart disease and death, according to a new study.
The study was released earlier this year at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2020 digital conference. “Daytime napping is common all over the world and is generally considered a healthy habit,” Dr. Zhe Pan of Guangzhou Medical University, China said in a news release. “A common view is that napping improves performance and counteracts the negative consequences of ‘sleep debt’. Our study challenges these widely held opinions.” The researchers also found that long naps only increased the risk of death if the person slept more than six hours per night.
The study's conclusions
The study analyzed 313,651 participants from over 20 studies to examine the link between napping and potential health implications. Of the participants, 39 percent took naps. Previous research on this subject has produced conflicting results.
According to the current analysis, however, naps lasting more than 60 minutes cause a 30 percent higher risk of “all-cause death” and a 34 percent greater chance of cardiovascular disease, compared with remaining awake. The study further says that the higher mortality risk was only connected to people who got more than six hours of sleep every night.
More critically, though, the researchers claim that regardless of length, naps were “linked with a 19 percent elevated risk of death.” This link was stronger in women, who had a 2 percent higher probability of death along with the elderly whose risk increased to 17 percent with naps.
When it comes to cardiovascular diseases, however, they say that a little nap isn’t risky; it might, in fact, be helpful. It isn't clear exactly how taking naps would be good for the heart's health but many experts have observed that sleep is essential for a healthy heart. The Sleep Foundation states that people who don't sleep enough are "at higher risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease".
So how long can we nap for?
This isn’t the first study of its kind that has found a connection between napping and negative outcomes on our health. Previous studies have indicated that taking longer naps can increase levels of inflammation, which is related to heart disease and increased risk of death. Other research has also linked napping with high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, and anxiety.
The revelations of these studies don’t mean that we should start fearing daytime napping, though. Many of us don’t often get a proper night’s sleep and a few minutes of shut-eye during the day can be helpful.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sleep deprivation is a major risk factor for various harmful conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and mental distress. Furthermore, even this new study says that a short nap can actually be beneficial. “The results suggest that shorter naps (especially those less than 30 to 45 minutes) might improve heart health in people who sleep insufficiently at night," said Pan.
According to recommendations from the American Sleep Association (ASA), a 15- to 30-minute “power nap” can provide an extra boost of energy during the day. However, they make it clear that these naps “are not meant to replace any nighttime sleep.” The organization further mentions that adults should nap around the same time each day - no longer than 30 minutes. Any longer than that and you are bound to be sluggish, groggy, and more tired than before you went to sleep.
Health experts have often stated that having a 10-20 minute nap can leave you feeling more alert and refreshed. For most people, napping early in the afternoon is the best way to go. Make sure that you don’t go beyond 3 PM with your nap as it can interfere with your nighttime sleep.
Meanwhile, more research is needed to properly understand how taking long naps affects the body and how it can be linked to a range of health issues. For now, you can keep your daytime siestas to less than 30 minutes to be safe, as most health experts recommend.
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