The Hidden Dangers of Naps, According to Medical Experts

Joel Eisenberg

Medical experts largely believe naps can be healthy. However, naps of certain lengths and on the parts of those who suffer from pre-existing conditions are also believed to exacerbate issues, including those related to cardiovascular health.

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NapJamie Street, Unsplash

Author’s Note

This article is based on accredited medical and media reports. Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I will share knowledge but will offer no advice on this matter herein.

All listed theories and facts shared within this article are fully-attributed to individual accounts and said outlets, including Wikipedia.org, Heart.org, The American Heart Association, Heart Medical Journal, Sleep Medical Journal, Dr. Michael Grandner (Director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona in Tucson), Dr. W. Christopher Winter, and Yahoo! Life.

Introduction

Wikipedia features a comprehensive and medically-attributed overview of the concept of napping: A nap is a short period of sleep, typically taken during daytime hours as an adjunct to the usual nocturnal sleep period. Naps are most often taken as a response to drowsiness during waking hours. A nap is a form of biphasic or polyphasic sleep, where the latter terms also include longer periods of sleep in addition to one single period. For years, scientists have been investigating the benefits of napping, including the 30-minute nap as well as sleep durations of 1–2 hours. Performance across a wide range of cognitive processes has been tested.

In terms of a closer look on the matter, Heart.org maintains an archived July, 2020 feature story on its webpage, titled “Enjoy Your Nap, But Be Aware of the Pros and Cons.”

As excerpted from the article, which features a disclaimer that the article was then two years old and credited to the American Heart Association: “A power nap, between 15 and 45 minutes, can improve memory and reduce fatigue for the rest of the day," said Dr. Michael Grandner, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

The piece goes on to reference a 2019 study shared by the British medical journal Heart, which tracked the napping habits of nearly 3,500 people over five years and found those who napped once or twice a week were 48% less likely to have a cardiovascular event than those who didn't. However, the following is also stated: Conversely, a meta-analysis of 11 studies published in the journal Sleep in 2015 showed people who nap for an hour or more a day had 1.82 times the rate of cardiovascular disease than people who didn't nap.

Let us explore further.

Naps: Pro and Con

I have written two articles on the concept of sleep for NewsBreak. See the following links:

Both articles reference the difficulty many individuals face with their sleep habits, which explains why many medical doctors encourage brief naps.

An August 12th piece from Yahoo! Life, “Are Naps Actually Good For You? Here’s What Sleep Experts Say,” likewise discusses pros (healing and cognitive-related, primarily) but also cons of napping: Naps have been linked with several health issues in adults, including high blood pressure and stroke. One recent study of 358 ,451 people published in the journal Hypertension found that participants who usually napped during the day were 12% more likely to develop high blood pressure and were 24% more likely to have a stroke compared to people who didn't nap. And, if the person was under 60, napping on most days raised the risk of developing high blood pressure by 20% compared to never-nappers. Longer naps, such as an hour or more at a time, have also been linked to a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and depression.

Though the science as referenced in this piece is recent, sleep specialist Dr. W. Christopher Winter issues a disclaimer: Winter says it's hard to tell if it's the napping itself that's leading to these health conditions or if regular naps are an indicator that someone has an underlying health issue. "Studies have difficulty controlling for those variables," he says.

Conclusion

Doctors and scientists appear to largely agree that short naps are healthy and can have noticeable benefits. However, many also suggest that napping in extremis can actually be deleterious to one’s health.

Please contact a medical doctor if you are questioning the prudence of midday naps based on your medical circumstance.

Thank you for reading.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

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