Afternoon nap reduces risk of heart diseaseNew study says siesta could save your life

13 February 2007

Snoozing in the afternoon may upset the boss, but it could save your life, new research suggests.

A study of 23,681 Greek men and women found strong evidence in support of the siesta.

Individuals who took a midday nap for 30 minutes or more at least three times a week were 37 per cent less likely to die from heart disease than those who stayed awake.

Even the occasional siesta was associated with a 34 per cent lower risk of dying.

Among working men, napping of any sort resulted in a 64 per cent reduced risk of heart disease death.

Midday naps

The volunteers, who were aged 20 to 86, had no history of heart disease or any other severe condition.

At the start of the study they were asked if they took midday naps, and if so, how often and for how long at a time. They were also questioned about their level of physical activity and dietary habits over the previous year.

Participants were monitored for an average of 6.32 years, during which time 792 of them died. Of these, 133 died as a result of heart disease.

The findings were calculated after taking account of known cardiovascular risk factors.

Siestas produced a 36 per cent reduction in heart disease death risk for non-working men. A similar analysis of working and non-working women was not possible because only six deaths occurred among working women.

Stress-releasing

The team, led by Dr Androniki Naska, from the University of Athens Medical School in Greece, wrote in the Archives of Internal Medicine: "We interpret our findings as indicating that among healthy adults, siesta, possibly on account of stress-releasing consequences, may reduce coronary mortality.

"This is an important finding because the siesta habit is common in many parts of the world, including the Mediterranean region and Central America."

Countries where siestas are common also tend to be those with low rates of heart disease death.

Earlier studies looking at the health implications of siestas have shown conflicting results. But unlike the new research, they did not control for factors that might influence heart disease risk, such as physical activity and age.

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