By Tanya Pearey
It’s tempting, when that afternoon slump hits, to revive yourself with a little siesta. But having a snooze might be doing more for your health than simply increasing your energy levels. It could be giving your heart a boost, too.
New research, from the University Hospital of Lausanne in Switzerland, has found that people who nap for one or two afternoons a week are less likely to have a heart attack or stroke. But the study, of 3,463 Swiss adults, found that having three or more naps a week did not reduce your risk.
That’s not great news for us Brits apparently. We nap, on average, three times a week for around 35 minutes, according to a recent study by sofa and carpet specialist ScS.
How long should I nap?
Not only are we snoozing too often, we’re doing it for too long because the optimum duration of a nap should be half an hour, says Lisa Artis, Sleep Adviser at The Sleep Council.
‘A power nap of 20 to 30 minutes is sufficient to turn off the nervous system, recharge the whole body and improve alertness. Any longer, though, is long enough to put you in a deep sleep and leave you feeling groggy when you wake.
‘Napping is not generally encouraged as it can affect night-time sleep. However, if you haven’t slept well, or are feeling fatigued, a short kip can give you as much energy as two cups of strong coffee, but with longer lasting effects.”
How to nap well
Try to nap only once or twice a week, but here’s what else to bear in mind…
1. Aim to sleep for no more than 20-30 minutes
2. Use an eye mask and earplugs to block out distracting light and noise
3. Nap after lunch, between 1pm and 3pm – it’s the optimum time for a snooze
4. Make sure you’re in a comfortable and restful place
5. Don’t worry if you’re feeling tired, but can’t get to sleep. Use the time to relax and recharge instead – it can be just as restful.
But remember... napping regularly during the week could be a sign of underlying health problems, such as sleep apnoea which affects night-time sleep, so it’s important to get checked out by your GP.
Having a healthy lifestyle – where you eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and don’t smoke or drink too much – is the best way to avoid a heart attack or stroke.
Tanya Pearey has been a writer and editor in the health, fitness and lifestyle field for the past 25 years. She writes regularly for women’s lifestyle titles including woman&home, Woman’s Weekly, Woman and Woman’s Own. She has also written for newspapers including The Daily Mail and Daily Express, and women’s magazines in Australia, where she spent a year working.
Tanya is an avid runner and is lover of Parkruns and half marathons. She completed the London Marathon in under four hours – but that was 20 years ago and she hasn’t been brave enough to run that far again since! She’s a keen tennis player and walker, having climbed Kilimanjaro and the UK’s three highest peaks - Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike.
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