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The Surprising Health Benefits of a Midday Nap

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Do you have a tendency to snooze during the midday hours? Maybe you're exhausting from work, or perhaps you're simply trying to catch up on missed sleep. Regardless, new evidence suggests that midday naps offer some surprising health benefits.

According to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Lausanne, people who take midday naps on a regular basis are less likely to develop heart disease than their counterparts who rarely or never take midday naps.

For the study, researchers from the University of Laussane recruited over 3,400 middle-aged men and women and tracked their sleeping behaviors, as well as health, over the course of five years. At the beginning of the study, about half of participants said they napped at least once during the past week, whereas 19% of participants said they took up to two naps.

At the end of the study, researchers concluded that participants who napped regularly during the midday hours were 48% less likely to experience a heart attack, stroke or general heart failure than participants who took fewer naps. “Subjects who nap once or twice per week have a lower risk of incident CVD events, while no association was found for more frequent napping or napping duration,” said the study's researchers.

How can midday naps lower your risk of heart disease exactly? Researchers were reluctant to explain the reason for this phenomenon, though some health experts theorize it's attributed to lower cortisol levels. Known as the stress hormone, cortisol levels fluctuate depending on how much sleep you get. If you get a good night's rest, your body's cortisol levels will decrease. If you don't get enough sleep, on the other hand, cortisol levels will increase. By napping regularly, you'll promote lower cortisol levels in your body, which could subsequently lower your risk of developing heart disease.

This doesn't necessarily mean that you spend all your day napping. While taking short naps could have a positive impact on your heart health, taking long naps -- or taking too many naps -- could have the opposite effect. Other studies have shown that oversleeping increases the risk of heart disease, so use caution to ensure that you don't spend too much napping. By taking short naps during the midday hours, you'll reap the benefits of a healthier heart as well as less stress.

This study was published in the medical journal Heart.

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