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Nappers beware—long daytime naps may cause problems for your health
Imagine it’s a Sunday afternoon. You’re lying on your couch, the room is at the perfect temperature and there’s nothing too stimulating on TV—all signs pointing to an opportune time to catch some zzzs. No harm in that, right?
Napping, in general, isn’t considered unhealthy. Taking brief naps under half an hour can bring about many benefits, such as reduced fatigue, increased alertness, improved mood and improved cognitive performance. However, the duration of your nap can determine whether you see positive or negative effects. While an afternoon nap is typically harmless, it could possibly bring about health issues if it’s long-lasting and becomes a frequent habit.
Serious health conditions
Naps exceeding half an hour during the day could possibly lead to serious health conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. A study published in April 2016 found that naps lasting more than 60 minutes a day increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 50 percent. In addition to that, it found longer naps also increased risk of metabolic syndrome by 50 percent. In another study, naps lasting longer than an hour significantly increased the risk of cardiovascular disease—by 82 percent.
Lower life expectancy
Yes, frequently taking long naps could lower your life expectancy. Naps lasting longer than one hour have been linked to an increased risk of death from all causes. A recent study found that the risk of all-cause mortality increased by 27 percent for long naps, while short daytime naps increased risk by seven percent. However, results suggest more research needs to be done on this topic.
Nighttime sleep problems
If you suffer from sleep problems such as insomnia or poor sleep quality at night, long naps may actually make these issues worse. A study from the University of Pittsburgh found that after experiencing short, inefficient sleep at night, people would take a long nap the next day and experience poor sleep again later that same night. However, this vicious cycle of trying to catch up on sleep lost during the night could be broken by either eliminating naps altogether or addressing the issues that may be causing poor sleep at night.
Poor cognitive functioning
While brief naps that last 15 minutes or less may improve cognitive functioning, longer naps can have the opposite effect. If you sleep longer than a quarter of an hour, you may suffer from sleep inertia—a feeling of disorientation or grogginess—for a period of time after waking. This can lead to temporarily being unable to perform high functioning tasks or tasks involving memory recall.
Good napping habits
The good thing about all habits is they can be reversed, and the same goes for cyclical daytime napping which can generally be broken within a few days of applying consistent changes in pattern. Setting one’s phone alarm for the 20-30 minute “power nap” is one way of not giving in to the daytime nap and can aid in resetting your internal clock.
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