Published in Scientific America, February 12, 2007
Daytime nappers may be in luck. New research shows that taking a midday nap may reduce the risk of fatal heart problems. Naps might benefit the heart by reducing stress, and jobs are a common source of stress. Exactly how stress is related to heart disease is uncertain. Some researchers think it may be related due to the unhealthy effects of stress hormones. Stress can contribute to heart disease by keeping people from exercising or causing them to over eat or smoke.
Midday napping (siesta) is common in populations with low coronary mortality. This is the largest study to date on the health effects of napping. Researchers tracked 23,681 healthy Greek adults for an average of six years. The adults who napped for a half an hour at least three times a week, had a 37 percent lower risk of dying from heart problems and heart attacks than the adults who did not nap. Most of the adults who participated were in their 50’s. Working men seemed to have the best result. Researchers in this study factored in diet, exercise, smoking and other habits that affect the heart. They concluded that taking a nap reduced the risk of heart problems and heart attacks. Siestas are not a common practice in the U.S. culture, but maybe they should be.
Dr Fields’ comment: Napping may be as easy as closing your eyes for 5-15 minutes. You can lie down if possible. Or sit in your car. But also just sitting in your chair or leaning over a desk will work too. Be creative and even you can find a way.