Napping This Many times a Week Could Protect Against Heart Attacks and Strokes

Napping once or twice per week appears to lower the risk of strokes as well as heart attacks and failures, researchers have found.

The study involved 3,462 people living in the Swiss city of Lausanne, who had no history of cardiovascular disease at the start of the research. Participants were aged between 35 and 75, and joined the research between 2003 and 2006. They reported how often they napped per week and for how long at the start of the study, then twice more between April 2009 and 2012, and May 2014 and April 2017.

The team also noted if participants had been affected by or died of a cardiovascular condition like heart attack, heart failure, or stroke.

Past studies have produced mixed results on whether sleeping in the day is good or bad for cardiovascular health. Most of these studies only looked at whether or not participants napped, rather than how often or for how long. So the authors of the new paper published in the journal Heart wanted to fill in this knowledge gap by looking at cardiovascular disease events in the Swiss cohort.

Participants were found to nap from between five minutes to more than one hour. Those who napped one to two times a week were less likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared with those did not sleep in the day. Subjects appeared to reap the benefits no matter how long they napped—and sleeping in the day more than once or twice a week didn't seem to provide any extra benefits in terms of heart health.

Pointing out the limitations of the work, study co-author Nadine Häusler, from Lausanne University Hospital, told Newsweek the study relied on the respondents accurately reporting how often and how long they napped. Also, the participants were asked about napping in the afternoon, so the amount of morning naps may have been underestimated. And as the study was observational and involved a Swiss population, the team could not find a direct cause and effect—and the results might not apply to other countries.

So should the average person take naps to protect their heart health? Häusler explained: "Our study was carried out in a general healthy population, and thus we may say that an occasional nap can potentially be beneficial regarding cardiovascular disease for general healthy adults—these results remain to be confirmed by other studies though."

In previous research co-authored by Hausler, researchers found that people are more likely to nap if they have poor quality sleep the night before and if they sleep for a short period of time. They found napping in the daytime did not affect how participants slept or whether they had good night's sleep. "Thus, daytime napping can compensate for poor nighttime sleep," she argued.

However, Häusler stressed those with insomnia should not take naps.

Marie-Pierre St-Onge, a fellow of the American Heart Association and Associate Professor at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, told Newsweek: "This study adds to the body of literature in this field but still does not provide definitive results and contradicts some prior reports.

"We still have many questions to answer to be able to make recommendations related to napping and cardiovascular health. We need additional research that tracks napping patterns over time, considers napping duration and frequency along with nightly sleep duration in determining [the] association with the risk of chronic disorders."

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Researchers have investigated the link between napping and heart disease. A stock image of a woman asleep on the sofa. Getty