The restorative benefits of a good night’s sleep, and its impact on our overall health have been well documented.
But now new research has revealed that night-time isn’t the only period of the day where slumber could potentially equal success when it comes to tackling a range of health outcomes.
Researchers looked at the link between average nap duration and frequency and the risk of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular disease ‘events,’ such as heart attack, stroke, or heart failure, among 3,462 randomly selected residents of Lausanne, Switzerland, aged between 35 and 75.
Recruited between 2003 and 2006 to the CoLaus study — which looked at factors behind cadiovascular disease development — participants’ first check-up took place between 2009 and 2012.
Here information on nap and sleep patterns in the previous week was collected and the participants’ health monitored for a subsequent period averaging five years.
More than half (58 per cent, 2014) said they hadn’t taken a nap during the previous seven days, around one in five (19 per cent, 667) said they took one to two naps; while one in 10 (12 per cent, 411) said they took three to five. A similar number (11 per cent, 370) said they took six to seven naps during the past week.
During the period monitored, there were 155 fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular disease ‘events’.
And even when taking into account influential factors, such as age, duration of night-time sleep, other cardiovascular disease risks, such as high blood pressure/cholesterol, the research concluded that occasional napping, once to twice a week, was associated with an almost halving (48 per cent) in attack/stroke/heart failure risk, when compared to those who didn’t take any naps.
The above also remained true when factoring in excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and regularly sleeping for a minimum of 6 hours a night. Only severe sleep apnoea and older adults (65+) affected this link.
Drs Yue Leng and Kristine Yaffe, of the University of California at San Francisco, USA, highlighted that the research into this area is hampered by not having a gold standard in which to measure naps, and as a result they argue that it’s “premature to conclude on the appropriateness of napping for maintaining optimal heart health.”
However, they went on to add, “While the exact physiological pathways linking daytime napping to [cardiovascular disease] risk is not clear, [this research] contributes to the ongoing debate on the health implications of napping, and suggests that it might not only be the duration, but also the frequency that matters.”
Before continuing, “The study of napping is a challenging but also a promising field with potentially significant public health implications. While there remain more questions than answers, it is time to start unveiling the power of naps for a supercharged heart.”