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Time for a nap

HEALTH

Our hurly-burly lives often leave little time for napping, but research shows we should try to squeeze some shut-eye into our day because it’s good for the heart. A Swiss study has found that just one or two naps a week can reduce the risk of heart attacks, heart disease and strokes by nearly 50 percent.

Researchers collected information about the napping habits, nocturnal sleep patterns, demographics, lifestyle, and overall health of almost 3,500 Swiss adults aged 35 to 75. Participants were split into two groups — nappers and non-nappers — and monitored for five years. People who took one or two daytime naps a week were found to have a lower risk of cardiovascular problems than the non-nappers. These short snoozes, say the researchers, could be a valuable way to relieve stress and compensate for poor sleep at night, thereby protecting heart health.

However, researchers found that frequent napping provided no extra benefit. “In fact, we found that frequent nappers initially had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease,” said lead researcher Nadine Hausler at University Hospital of Lausanne in Switzerland. "However, when we took sociodemographic, lifestyle and cardiovascular risk factors into account, this increased risk disappeared."

As to why infrequent napping reduces the number of heart episodes, Hausler couldn’t say for sure. “The mechanisms are not straightforward. We assume that occasional napping might be a result of a physiological compensation, [which decreases] the stress due to insufficient nocturnal sleep and, thus, could have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular disease events.” While follow-up studies are needed to confirm the results, Hausler said she’s confident an occasional nap can potentially reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease for healthy adults.


| Studies testing a wide range of nap times found that between 10 and 20 minutes of sleep is best.

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