Long Naps Are Associated With Disease

If you’re a regular napper, this news is for you. Naps are a wonderful, arguably beneficial, break in your day, however the discussion of the health benefits of napping remains ongoing. Some research has shown cognitive benefits from a short sleep in the afternoon (1:00 to 3:00 is the optimal time), while others link napping with very negative things such as a shortened lifespan. So which is it?

The most recent study on the subject, appearing in the journal Sleep Medicine has discovered that those who nap longer than others are at risk for diabetes. The project included 27,000 Chinese men and women who were retired, breaking them into groups based on how long they napped each day. The napping time started at 0 minutes, there was an under 30 minutes, a 30-60 minutes, a 60-90 minute group and an over 90 minute nap a day group. The subjects also underwent in person interviews and blood tests to monitor their blood sugar levels. Nappers were found to have higher blood pressure (40% of them) and cholesterol numbers (24% of them) than those who didn’t take naps.

More than 2/3 of the study subjects said they did take afternoon naps, and after adjusting for other factors, the team saw that those who napped for more than an hour had an increased risk of prediabetes and diabetes itself when compared to those who didn’t nap.

Those who took short naps of under a half hour tended to have lower levels of blood sugar compared to the non-nappers, but the link did not rise to the level of statistical significance. Still worth mentioning because these nappers are in good company – Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and George W. Bush, also were know to be nappers.

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Long Naps Are Associated With Disease Continued…

Another Chinese study from 2010 found that nappers were 50% more likely to have diabetes than those who didn’t nap as much. These results held even after controlling for other risk factors and excluding subjects who might have been potentially ill and dealing with daytime tiredness. Maybe daily naps cut into time that could have been spent exercising. Daytime sleep also can throw off circadian rhythm, and expose organs to higher levels of stress hormones.

It may well be that naps of differing lengths impact the body in different ways. There is earlier research suggesting a link between diabetes and nighttime sleep (too much or not enough). It’s possible that sleeping in the daytime disturbs the internal clock and this causes problems with the release of insulin. Shorter naps don’t have time to have this effect. It may also be that those with diabetes aren’t sleeping as well at night, and this loss prompts them to sleep for a longer period in the daytime.

While here in the U.S. napping is considered an indulgence we continue to be sleep deprived with lifestyles that are busier than ever. In China, like many societies the world over, napping is readily accepted and practiced by all ages. As a result, the research team believes this makes it less likely that regular napping would be the cause of the high blood sugar levels of diabetes.

To your good health,