A half-hour nap, right in the middle of your workday, could be a heart-healthy thing, not to mention a de-stresser that may help you live longer, especially if you’re male.
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine tracked 23,681 men and women for six years. Those who napped at least 30 minutes three times a week had a 37% lower risk of dying from heart problems. Among working men, those who took midday naps “occasionally or systematically” had a 64% lower risk of death from heart disease than non-nappers.
But here’s the rub: The study took place in Greece, where the Mediterranean culture has long embraced the notion of a midday snooze. The study, administered by the University of Athens Medical School, reinforces the belief that a brief nap can lower the heart rate, reduce blood pressure and other indicators of stress. “A siesta in a healthy individual may act as a stress-releasing habit, and there is considerable evidence that stress has both short- and long-term adverse effects on incidence of and mortality from coronary heart disease,” the study concluded.
Murali Maheswaran, a neurologist at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City who specializes in sleep disorders, said the hospital’s sleep-clinic research has not made the link between napping and a decreased risk of heart disease. Siesta cultures, he said, are much more in tune with human’s natural downtime at about 3pm each day.
“Siesta time, usually around 3pm, is when we’re at a circadian dip, but our culture doesn’t take a siesta,” he said. “We don’t take a break even if we feel tired. We’re probably not at our full working capacity but we keep working straight through.”
Maheswaran wasn’t ready to jump on the nap-at-work bandwagon. He said that for most healthy adults, a full night’s sleep eliminates the need for a daytime nap.