Longer midday nap linked to higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome

Credit: Adrian Swancar / Unsplash

Taking a nap or siesta is a common practice in many countries, but researchers are still trying to understand its impact on health.

A new study led by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital examined the link between taking a nap and metabolic health among more than 3,000 adults.

The study found that individuals who took long siestas, defined as 30 minutes or more, were more likely to have a higher body mass index, higher blood pressure, and a cluster of other conditions associated with heart disease and diabetes (metabolic syndrome) compared to those who did not take siestas.

However, those who had short siestas, also known as “power naps,” did not have an increased risk of obesity or metabolic alterations.

The team says “Not all siestas are the same. The length of time, position of sleep, and other specific factors can affect the health outcomes of a nap.”

The researchers examined data from 3,275 adults in a Mediterranean population, specifically people from the Spanish region of Murcia.

The research team found that long siesta-takers had a higher body mass index and were more likely to have metabolic syndrome than those who did not take siestas.

Additionally, compared with the no-siesta group, the long siesta group had higher values of waist circumference, fasting glucose levels, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure.

However, the study also found that short siesta-takers were less likely to have elevated systolic blood pressure than those who took no siestas.

The results of the study call for future research to investigate whether a short siesta is advantageous over a long one, particularly for individuals with habits such as having delayed meals and sleep schedules or for those who smoke.

While the study only shows an association between siestas and metabolic health, it highlights the importance of understanding how lifestyle choices, such as taking siestas, affect metabolic mechanisms.

Obesity is a growing health concern affecting over one billion people around the world, and understanding how habits influence health can help researchers learn how to prevent and manage it.

How to take a healthy nap

Taking a nap can be a great way to recharge and improve productivity, but it’s important to take a healthy nap. Here are some tips on how to take a healthy nap:

Choose the right time: The best time to take a nap is midday, between 1 pm and 3 pm. This is when your body’s natural sleep cycle is at its lowest.

Limit the duration: The ideal length of a nap is 20-30 minutes. This is long enough to feel refreshed and rejuvenated, but not so long that you feel groggy or have trouble falling asleep at night.

Find a quiet, comfortable space: A peaceful environment is essential for a good nap. Make sure the room is quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature. Use earplugs, an eye mask, or a white noise machine if necessary.

Relax your body: Take a few deep breaths and try to relax your body. You can try progressive muscle relaxation or other relaxation techniques to help you fall asleep faster.

Avoid caffeine and heavy meals: Don’t drink caffeine or eat heavy meals before taking a nap. These can interfere with your ability to fall asleep and may leave you feeling groggy when you wake up.

Set an alarm: To avoid oversleeping, set an alarm for the duration of your nap. This will help you wake up feeling refreshed and energized.

Don’t rely on naps to replace a good night’s sleep: Naps can be a great way to boost energy and improve productivity, but they should not replace a good night’s sleep. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night.

Taking a healthy nap can help you feel more alert, focused, and productive throughout the day.

By following these tips, you can take a nap that leaves you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated without interfering with your ability to sleep at night.

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The study was conducted by Barbara Vizmanos et al and published in Obesity.

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