We’ve heard endless lectures about getting enough sleep to attain optimal health but a recent American College of Cardiology study is linking long naps with an increase in heart disease. Researchers found that both taking naps longer than 40 minutes and feeling extreme fatigue throughout the day were linked with increases in high blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and diabetes.
Of course, we should all make sleep a priority but for new parents or those on an unusual work schedule, a full and continuous 8-hours at night isn’t always possible. The good news is that the same study found that shorter naps of 20-30 minutes have no link to an increase in heart disease. In fact, participants who napped for 30 minutes or less had a slight decrease in their risk of metabolic syndrome (or the combination of several cardiac conditions, including high blood pressure and obesity).
So what make a longer nap dangerous? It’s likely that those napping for 40 minutes or longer are making up for lost or lack of sleep at night and inadequate overall sleep has a direct link with cardiac health. So it’s possible that the lengthy nap or the extremes daytime fatigue is just a byproduct of a bigger, underlying problem.
“An average of 7 hours of rest at night compared to 5 hours drops the risk of heart attacks as much as any medicine” says Joel Kahn, MD, professor of medicine, founder of the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity and author of Dead Execs Don’t get Bonuses: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Your Career with a Healthy Heart, “Sleep allows the body to repair damage done during the day and build resilience to the next day’s challenges.”
There are several possible sleep interferences. If you’re simply going to bed too late before an early alarm, establish a relaxing, electronic-free bedtime routine. Try reading, drinking decaffeinated tea or practicing a few yoga stretches before bed and gradually start your new routine a few minutes earlier each week. If you’ve discovered you snore, don’t ignore your family, significant other or roommate when they complain.
“Snoring may be a symptom of obstructed airways that cause drops in oxygen during the night, increased inflammation, difficulty controlling weight and appetite, and heart rhythm issues.” according to Kahn.
Since Kahn says this study shows an association between long naps and heart disease rather than a proven link, maybe you don’t need to skip that nap after all but do pay attention to your overall sleep habits to keep your heart healthy and avoid cardiovascular disease.