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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
Boston Globe Health and Science staff:
Karen Weintraub, Deputy Health and Science Editor, and Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor.
Short White Coat blogger Ishani Ganguli
Monday, February 12, 2007
The lifesaving potential of an afternoon nap
By Stephen Smith, Globe Staff
Could midday napping save your life?
The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, concluded that napping was more likely than diet, physical activity or smoking to lower the incidence of heart attacks and other life-ending heart ailments.
Still, the authors cautioned that further research is needed to confirm their findings.
Specialists not involved with the study said there are sound biochemical reasons to believe that a nap may help protect against heart disease.
The researchers quizzed study participants about their siesta habits, defining regular nappers as those who took a midday break at least three times a week, with the nap lasting a minimum of 30 minutes. It was that group that derived the greatest benefit, with a 37 percent drop in deaths attributable to heart disease. The effect was far more modest among those who napped only occasionally, and was not considered statistically meaningful.
There's a well-recognized biological impetus for the desire to take a break mid-way through the waking hours: Our bodies tell us to, said Michael Twery, director of the federal government's National Center on Sleep Disorders Research. It happens again right before bedtime.
"It leads to improved safety," said marketing director Susan Kozikowski.
"The take-home message is we do need a good night's sleep, we do need to look at how much sleep we get and optimize that," Irwin said. "We need to recognize that sleep is a behavior we can control as humans, and if we do that, our overall health will improve in this country."
A web site run by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, an organization of specialists, provides information about sleep and sleeping disorders. The site is underwritten by physicians and does not take funding from pharmaceutical companies or medical device makers.