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06.12.2008


Afternoon nap halves risk of fatal heart attack

The easiest way to reduce your chances of a deadly heart attack is to take a nap after lunch. Greek epidemiologists discovered this after monitoring 24,000 people for six years. Whether women react so positively to a siesta the researchers cannot say for sure, but for men the effect was overwhelming.

Afternoon nap halves risk of fatal heart attack
The researchers, who published their results in 2007 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, were familiar with previous studies which suggested that an afternoon nap is healthy. But they also knew of studies that showed no effect. In the search for clear answers, they decided to go through data on nutrition and cancer that had been collected between 1994 and 1999.

The Greeks looked at men who were employed, unemployed and no longer employed. They were unable to split the women up in the same categories, as not that many women work in Greece.

The table below shows the effect of afternoon naps and a number of other typical factors on the chance of coronary-related death.


Afternoon nap halves risk of fatal heart attack


Smoking, unemployment (among men) and a fat belly increase the chance of dying from a heart attack. Education, good nutrition and physical activity reduce the risk particularly among women. Among men the effect of an afternoon nap is dramatic. Men who regularly take a siesta halve their chance of having a heart attack.

An afternoon nap protects working men especially, as you can see below.


Afternoon nap halves risk of fatal heart attack


According to the table, even an occasional nap protects working men.

It is interesting though that the researchers found no relationship between a siesta and death. An afternoon nap does not reduce the likelihood of dying. People who nap for longer than two hours in the afternoon every day actually had a fourteen percent higher chance of dying than average, the researchers discovered. [The effect was not statistically significant - Ed.] Maybe it's because men and women who are ill, and therefore already have a greater chance of dying, sleep more often in the afternoon than healthy people.

Why an afternoon nap reduces the chance of fatal heart attacks and strokes the researchers don't know. One fairly obvious theory is that a siesta reduces stress and lowers cortisol levels.

The world of weight and endurance athletes has been plagued by a hidden death wave for many years: apparently healthy athletes are dying from coronary-related disease. Athletes who are worried about this might find the Greek findings useful.

Sources:
Arch Intern Med. 2007;167:296-301.