The study, published in the British Medical Journal, saw the researchers monitor 3,400 people aged between 35 and 75 over the space of five years to unravel the link between the frequency/duration of naps and the risk of a cardiac arrest or stroke.
The researchers took cognizance of potential factors that could influence the findings and, in the end, recorded a total of 155 heart attacks/strokes.
Although napping once or twice weekly was found to have almost halved the risk of the disease in comparison to those who never napped, the experts also found that napping duration had no impact on heart attack or stroke risk.
Nadine Hausler, an author of the study, stated that only the over-65s who had severe sleep apnoea were still at high risk of a heart attack or stroke if they were regular nappers.
“This association held true after taking account of potentially influential factors, such as age, and night-time sleep duration, as well as other cardiovascular disease risks, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol,” she said.
“And it didn’t change after factoring in excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and regularly sleeping for at least six hours a night.”
According to Naveed Sattar, a Metabolic Medicine professor at the University of Glasgow, biweekly napping could aid heart health but the same benefit might likely not apply to people who nap more frequently.
Vanessa Smith, a cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, stated that more evidence would be needed to firmly establish a link between nap frequency and heart disease.
“Many of us might aim to grab an extra 40 winks here and there but more evidence is needed before we can say that regular napping can help to reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke. There are many other lifestyle changes you can make which we know help to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy,” she said.
“Doing 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week and eating a healthy Mediterranean-based diet can reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. We also know that treating high blood pressure and managing your cholesterol can reduce your risk of life-threatening heart and circulatory diseases.”