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Afternoon nap cuts risk of heart disease

A study says, taking afternoon naps could dramatically cut your risk of dying from heart disease.

india Updated:

Taking afternoon naps could dramatically cut your risk of dying from heart disease, say researchers.

A regular siesta reduces the chances of heart-related death by one-third among all adults, they found. Workers get an even greater benefit, with a two-thirds reduction in risk.

The researchers from Harvard School of Public Health in the U.S. and the University of Athens Medical School in Greece claim napping may improve health by releasing stress, which is a known trigger for heart problems.

Their study - published today in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine - involved almost 24,000 Greek men and women aged 20 to 86 who did not have heart disease or any other serious illnesses when they enrolled for the project between 1994 and 1997.

Dr Androniki Naska, of the Athens medical school, said: 'We interpret our findings as indicating that among healthy adults, siesta, possibly on account of stressreleasing consequences, may reduce coronary mortality.' <b1>

At the beginning of the study, the volunteers were asked if they took a midday nap and if so, how often and for how long at a time.

Researchers followed the participants for more than six years, during which time 792 of them died - including 133 from heart disease.

They found those who took naps of any frequency or duration had a 34 per cent lower risk of dying from heart disease than those who did not.

Systematic nappers - defined as those who took a siesta for 30 minutes or more at least three times a week - had a 37 per cent lower risk of heart-related death.

Among working men those who took midday naps, either occasionally or systematically, had a 64 per cent lower risk of death from heart disease. This compared with non-working men taking naps who had a 36 per cent reduction in risk.

Figures for working women were unavailable as only six died during the study. Because the study found working men got the greatest benefit from regular naps the researchers concluded a reduction in stress in general, and job-related stress in particular, was probably responsible.

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

Professor Jim Horne, director of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University, said Greece had a culture of taking siestas which might mean the findings were not necessarily applicable in countries such as the UK.

He said: 'We have to be careful about interpreting the results. Generally speaking, if people need to take a lengthy sleep during the day it's because they are not getting enough sleep at night.

'It's questionable whether employers, for example, should be providing the facilities for workers to sleep at work simply because they are not ensuring they get sufficient sleep in their own time. I don't think they should.'

Professor Horne, author of the book Sleepfaring: A Journey through the Science of Sleep, said 15-minute naps were a good idea, however.

'The power nap can be very refreshing and much better for you than longer naps,' he added.

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