According to a study, needing a nap every afternoon could be a sign that you are at risk for stroke.
Chinese researchers looked at the daytime sleep patterns of 60,000 middle-aged and older Britons, tracking their health for 15 years.
The results revealed that those who ‘usually’ naps were 12% more likely to develop high blood pressure, compared to those who ‘never’ received 40 nods.
And they were almost a quarter more likely to suffer a stroke.
However, experts at Xiangya Hospital at Central South Hunan University doubt that the naps themselves are to blame.
Instead, always needing a “nap” could simply be a sign of poor sleep quality, which over the years has been repeatedly linked to high blood pressure.
And those who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to have poor health, such as overweight.
Chinese researchers, who looked at the daytime sleep patterns of 60,000 middle-aged and older Britons, found that those who ‘usually’ nap are a tenth more likely to develop high blood pressure, compared to those who “never” take a nap.
HOW MUCH SLEEP SHOULD I GET?
Most adults need six to nine hours of sleep each night.
Going to bed and getting up at the same time every night programs the brain and the internal biological clock to get used to a set routine.
But few people manage to stick to strict bedtime schedules.
To fall asleep more easily, the NHS advises to relax, for example by taking a bath, reading and avoiding electronic devices.
The health department also recommends keeping the bedroom conducive to sleep by removing televisions and gadgets from the room and keeping it dark and tidy.
For people who have trouble sleeping, the NHS says keeping a sleep diary can reveal lifestyle habits or activities that contribute to sleepiness.
Around a third of adults in the UK and half of Americans have high blood pressure, which puts pressure on blood vessels, the heart and other organs.
It increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
Dozens of studies have shown that those who nap – even just 30 minutes a day – tend to have higher blood pressure at night.
However, the truth remains obscure, as some research has revealed the opposite.
The new study, published in the journal Hypertension, aimed to get to the bottom of the debate.
Dr E Wang and his colleagues used information from the UK Biobank – a database containing the health records of half a million Britons aged 40 to 69, who regularly provide detailed information on how they life.
Some 60,686 people in the Biobank provided information about their nap habits on four occasions between 2006 and 2019.
All participants were asked “do you take a nap during the day” and were given the options “rarely/never”, “sometimes” or “usually”.
The researchers assigned the volunteers to one of three groups, based on their response.
Due to the way the question was asked, the experts could not calculate the number of days per week and the duration of the volunteers’ nap.
Siesta during the day was riskier for younger groups.
Those under 60 who usually nap were a fifth more likely to have high blood pressure than those who never nap.
The risk was half that of those over 60.
A higher rate of ‘usual’ naps were men, had lower qualifications and income, and were smokers, daily alcohol drinkers, and suffered from insomnia and snoring, compared to ‘never’ and ‘sometimes’ naps “.
A separate analysis showed that as naps increased by one category – from never to rarely, or rarely to usually – the risk of high blood pressure increased by 40%.
But Dr. Michael Grandner, a sleep specialist at the University of Arizona, explained that the nap itself may not be the cause.
“Although taking a nap in itself is not harmful, many people who do may do so because of poor sleep at night,” he said.
“Poor sleep at night is associated with poor health, and naps alone aren’t enough to offset that.”
Dr Grandner added: “This study echoes other findings which generally show that taking more naps seems to reflect an increased risk of heart health problems and other conditions.”
The study authors called for more research into the links between a healthy sleep pattern, including daytime naps, and heart health.
The results excluded anyone who had a stroke or high blood pressure at the start of the study.
The authors noted that they only looked at daytime nap frequency, not nap duration. It remains to be determined whether the duration of a nap affects blood pressure and the risk of stroke.
And the participants were middle-aged or older Britons – so the results may not apply to other age and ethnic groups.
The NHS says you should get six to nine hours of sleep each night.
Blood pressure drops during sleep, so if it’s too low, it stays high for a longer period of time.