Is too much napping bad for your health?

Is too much napping bad for your health?

Key findings

  • A recent study found that frequent daytime sleepiness is associated with an increased risk of developing high blood pressure and a higher risk of stroke.
  • Experts say napping isn’t necessarily harmful, rather it could be a sign that someone is having trouble sleeping at night, or that they have a sleep disorder or health condition.
  • If you can’t stay awake or fall asleep during activities that require your attention, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider.

People who sleep regularly may be at increased risk of developing high blood pressure and stroke, according to new research.

A peer-reviewed study published in Hypertension found that people who slept more during the day had a 12% higher risk of developing high blood pressure and a 24% higher risk of ischemic stroke compared to people who didn’t sleep at all.

In a news release from the American Heart Association, E Wang, MD, PhD, professor and chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at Xiangya Hospital, Central South University, and corresponding author of the study, said the findings “are particularly interesting because millions of people can to enjoy regular or even daily naps.”

Napping statistics for 360,000 adults

For the study, Wang and his colleagues analyzed data from nearly 360,000 people aged 40 to 69 who lived in the UK between 2006 and 2010.

At the start of the study, none of the participants had hypertension or suffered a stroke. All participants provided blood, urine and saliva samples to the researchers.

The researchers categorized the participants into different groups based on how often they said they napped: “never/rarely,” “sometimes,” or “usually.”

When participants increased their napping (for example, moving from the never group to the sometimes group or the sometimes group to the usually group), the risk of high blood pressure increased by 40%.

Is napping bad for you?

Although the study results suggest a link between frequent napping and an increased risk of high blood pressure and stroke, this does not mean that napping is inherently bad. Rather, a nap may be a sign of another dream or health problems.

Michael Grandner, PhD, MTR, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program and associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona, who was not part of the study, told Verywell that people who nap frequently may be exposed to of a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, but that this “doesn’t mean that naps themselves are harmful.”

Instead, Grandner said, “the presence of napping may be an indicator that something is not optimal with health.”

Michael Grandner, MD, MTR

I suspect the problem isn’t the naps themselves, but more the fact that if people can’t stay awake during the day, that means they may have a problem sleeping at night.

— Michael Grandner, Ph.D., MTR

According to Grandner, most people who nap more often during the day do so because their sleep at night is not optimal.

Insufficient sleep or poor quality sleep at night leads to daytime sleepiness. So the naps themselves aren’t necessarily the problem—it’s what causes people to need to nap in the first place.

“I suspect the problem isn’t the naps themselves, but more the fact that if people can’t stay awake during the day, that means they may have a problem sleeping at night,” Grandner said.

Naps can be a symptom of other health conditions

Donald Lloyd-Jones, M.D., M.D., cardiologist and chair of the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University and past president of the American Heart Association, told Verywell that people who nap frequently during the day may have other health problems. problems that affect their sleep at night.

“People who have obstructive sleep apnea — a serious sleep disorder — have very poor sleep quality,” Lloyd-Jones said. “When you have sleep apnea, it means that several times a night your brain has to activate to open your airways so you can breathe. Whenever this happens, you get a rush of adrenaline and other stress hormones that raise your blood pressure in the moment, but also throughout the day and overtime.

Donald Lloyd-Jones, Ph.D

Not that there is a causal relationship between napping and these results, but that napping is an indicator of what the real underlying problem is.

— Donald Lloyd-Jones, Ph.D

Although the researchers who did the recent study may have found a link between napping, high blood pressure and stroke, Lloyd-Jones said the finding could be explained by the participants’ poor sleep habits at night or other health problems.

“It’s not that there’s a causal relationship between napping and these outcomes, but that napping is an indicator of what the real underlying problem is,” Lloyd-Jones said. “So I would interpret these results with considerable caution.”

These explanations are also consistent with sleep guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which state that not getting enough sleep at night can lead to depression, stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Previous research has also reached similar conclusions: A study published in 2021 found a link between obstructive sleep apnea, cardiovascular disease and the risk of hypertension.

How much napping is too much?

Napping every day or several times a week is actually quite common. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation reports that about one-third of adults in the United States regularly take a midday nap.

“Many people around the world take a nap every day, and for them it can be beneficial,” Grandner said. “There is no line at which a nap is too frequent.”

However, Rebecca Delling, MFA, LMT, certified sleep coach and owner of Hypnotic Massage Sleep Boutique, told Verywell that if these naps exceed 30 minutes or more several times a week, it could indicate underlying health problems and sleep deprivation .

According to Delling, if a nap is reserved for the weekend, it may mean that a sleep deficit has accumulated during the week. A sleep deficit that is caused by lifestyle or work schedule does not necessarily indicate a disorder.

“In these cases, adjusting individual sleep hygiene and bedtime routines may be enough to correct the problem,” Delling said.

How much sleep do I need at night?

In general, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends getting at least seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night.

If you’re unable to meet the AHA’s recommendation for a night’s sleep, Lloyd-Jones said the occasional power nap can help you get through the day.

However, if napping is something your body forces you to do every day, it could mean that your sleep quality is poor and you should talk to your provider about it.

You don’t have to give up your nap

According to Grandner, napping itself is not harmful. For many people, napping can be beneficial and may even improve brain function and improve daytime functioning.

Other studies suggest that napping can improve mental performance, boost memory, and help people better manage big emotions like feelings of frustration.

You don’t have to give up napping, but it’s a good idea to understand your typical napping behavior and take note if it changes.

“If you find that you’re napping because you can’t stay awake, see if you’re getting enough quality sleep at night,” Grandner said. “Although naps can help, these data show that they don’t completely solve whatever the problem is.”

Overall, experts say the new study doesn’t mean people should change their nap or sleep behavior — especially if they like to nap to recharge.

“We certainly can’t say from this study that napping is harmful,” Lloyd-Jones said. “If someone has had a bad night’s sleep and needs a power nap for 30 to 60 minutes, it’s perfectly reasonable to take an occasional nap.”

While you may not need to lose sleep over your napping habit, just keep an eye on it. If taking frequent naps is the only way you feel rested, you may be experiencing sleep deprivation or have a sleep disorder or other health condition.

In these cases, napping may prompt you to talk to your provider about diagnosis and treatment.

“If your body is forcing you to sleep every day, or you’re falling asleep in situations where it’s dangerous or unexpected, like behind the wheel, then it probably indicates an underlying problem that needs to be addressed,” Lloyd-Jones said.

What does this mean for you?

Napping isn’t inherently bad for you, but it could be a sign that you’re not sleeping well or enough at night.

If you take frequent naps, can’t stay awake, or don’t get quality sleep at night, talk to your provider. You may have an underlying sleep disorder or medical condition.

In general, getting at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night, maintaining a consistent sleep/wake cycle, and avoiding screens, heavy foods/meals, and alcohol before bed can help you get restful sleep.

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