Do daytime naps cut your risk of heart attack and stroke?

Swiss researchers investigate naps despite flaws in definition and recall

Researchers at the University Hospital of Lausanne looked at the link between napping and the risk of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular disease.

Researchers at the University Hospital of Lausanne looked at the link between napping and the risk of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular disease.

 

Taking occasional daytime naps may lower the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, a new study suggests.

Napping once to twice weekly for between five minutes and a hour showed an almost halving in heart attack, stroke and heart failure risk (48 per cent) compared with those who didn’t nap at all.

However, the research, published in the journal Heart, found there was no such association for either more frequent or longer naps.

Researchers at the Department of Medicine at the University Hospital of Lausanne, Switzerland, looked at the link between napping and the risk of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular disease among 3,462 randomly selected residents aged 35 to 75 in Lausanne.

The participants’ first check-up took place between 2009 and 2012, when information on their sleep and nap patterns in the previous week was collected, and their health was then monitored for an average of five years.

Dr Angie Brown, medical director with the Irish Heart Foundation, said studies on the risks and benefits of napping have been quite varied.

Physiological measurements

“This research is an observational study so doesn’t give us any information about why this frequency of napping might be beneficial and the information on nap and sleep patterns also relied on personal recall rather than physiological measurements,” she said.

“Furthermore, it is difficult to compare studies as there is no gold standard for measuring and defining ‘naps’ making it difficult to make firm conclusions.

“However, the study is of interest and has promising results with potentially significant public health implications if the results can be confirmed and clarified.”

Some 58 per cent of the participants in the study said they didn’t nap during the previous week, 19 per cent said they took one to two naps, 12 per cent said they took three to five, and 11 per cent said they took six to seven.

The studyfound frequent daytime nappers, taking three to seven naps a week tended to be older male smokers who weighed more and who also slept longer at night than those who said they did not nap during the day.

Frequent nappers also reported more daytime sleepiness and more severe obstructive sleep apnoea – a condition in which the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing.

The authors of the study said it was observational and, as such, could not establish cause. They also pointed out that the information on nap and sleep patterns relied on personal recall.