‘’Taking afternoon naps linked to healthy heart and reduced stroke risks” 

A study carried out recently found that people who had 1 or 2 afternoon naps a week were less likely to have a heart attackor stroke, compared with people who did not nap. However, having more than 2 naps a week was not linked to any benefit.

Whether napping during the daytime is healthy or unhealthy is unclear. Some previous studies found a reduced risk of heart and circulation problems, while others found a higher risk. 

While researchers found no link between length of naps and heart or circulation problems, they found that 1 or 2 naps might reduce risks, but having more than 1 or 2 naps did not reduce risk.

Sleeping in the daytime on most days could be a sign of a health problem, such as sleep apnoea, which disrupts night-time sleep. If you’re very sleepy during the daytime and need to nap most days, see your Doctor.

For most people, following healthy living advice – such as keeping active, not smoking, eating a healthy diet and not drinking to excess, is likely to give the best chance of avoiding heart attacks or strokes.

Researchers randomly recruited adults from the, aged 35 to 75. Between April 2009 and September 2012, these people were asked about their sleep habits, afternoon napping, physical activity and medical history.

They also had measurements taken of their height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and glucose levels. 

A sub-group was tested for sleep apnoea, a condition that disrupts night-time sleep. They were followed up until May 2014 to April 2017, with an average follow-up time of 5.3 years.

Researchers looked to see whether people who took naps of more or less than 1 hour, or who took naps 1 to 2, 2 to 5, or 6 to 7 times a week had a higher or lower risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, than people who did not nap.

They adjusted their figures to take account of the following possible confounding factors:

  • age, sex, education level
  • tobacco smoking
  • sedentary behaviour (more than 90% of day spent on low intensity physical activities)
  • body mass index (BMI)
  • sleep duration
  • high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes’s

They also looked at the effects of sleep apnoea in those who had that measured, and of excessive daytime sleepiness. 

The researchers based their findings on 3,462 people, once they’d excluded those:

  • lost to follow-up
  • who had a previous history of cardiovascular disease
  • missing information on napping or other important information

In the 3,462 people in the study group, there were a total of 155 heart attacks or strokes over 5.3 years. The majority of people in the study (58%) said they had not had a nap in the past week. 

However, 19% reported 1 or 2 naps, 12% reported 3 to 5 naps and 11% reported 6 to 7 naps.

Those who napped most often were more likely to be older men, less well educated, smokers and with a higher BMI. 

The study found:

  • 4.6% (93/2014) of people who did not nap had a heart attack or stroke
  • 1.8% (12/667) of people who had 1 to 2 naps had a heart attack or stroke
  • 5.4% (22/411) of people who had 3 to 5 naps had a heart attack or stroke
  • 7.6% (28/370) of people who had 6 to 7 naps had a heart attack or stroke

After taking other potential factors into account, the study found that people who napped once or twice a week had a 48% lower risk of heart attack or stroke (hazard ratio(HR) 0.52, 95% confidence interval(CI) 0.28 to 0.95). Other frequency of naps, and length of naps, had no link to the chances of having a heart attack or stroke.

The study might sound like good news for people who like the occasional snooze after lunch. But factors that affect a person’s risk of heart attack or stroke are complicated. 

This study does not provide enough evidence to say that people should start taking an afternoon nap to avoid having heart attacks or strokes.

There are limitations to the study. 

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