A new scientific survey links napping (in moderation) to better cardiovascular health.

By Maggie Seaver
September 18, 2019

No matter who you are or why you’re so sleepy, there’s honestly nothing more heavenly than a much-needed nap. It could be an accidental post-coffee catnap on the couch or a timed, intentional lights-out snooze in the afternoon—every nap is uniquely beautiful in its own way. 

OK, so we know naps feel good, but are they actually good for you? And is there a right way to nap? The National Sleep Foundation recommends that, if you’re going to get some impromptu shut-eye, a 10- to 30-minute nap (that’s not too close to bed time) is ideal for restoring alertness, boosting performance, and simply soaking up some “you” time. However, the closer to 30 minutes you nap, the higher the likelihood of grogginess upon waking (just something to think about).

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Beyond investigating napping’s short-term restorative power in the face of sleep deprivation, researchers have also been studying the influence of napping on heart health for years, with some conflicting findings—hence the controversy over whether or not napping really is healthy in the long run. But a recent study published in the British Medical Journal’s Heart journal that dives into potential effects of napping on cardiovascular health risks reveals a new observation: Napping in moderation—in this case, one to two times per week—could help reduce the risk of heart disease. 

The study’s authors analyzed answers from nearly 3,500 adults in Switzerland for over five years, who reported on how often they nap and how long they nap for, as well as incidence of both fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular disease (CVD). In the end, 155 participants reported heart issues, and the study researchers “observed a significantly lower risk for subjects napping one to two times weekly for developing a CVD event compared with non-napping subjects,” which led to the study’s conclusion that “subjects who nap once or twice per week have a lower risk of incident CVD events.” 

The published paper does note that the research revealed no clear association for nap duration or for those who nap more often than a couple times weekly, but it’s still pretty convincing evidence to help validate the afternoon nap we’re all day-dreaming about right now. Long story short, if you need to hit the sheets (or the couch or honestly just the floor) every once in a while for 20 minutes during the day, don’t judge yourself. You’re not lazy, you’re tired and busy! While we (and this study) can’t speak to the health impact of napping every day for two hours, it is OK to let yourself succumb to the sweet bliss of a short weekly nap or two without worrying about long-term side effects. 

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