Just 5 minutes of Z’s can slash heart attack risk nearly in HALF
This month, when the days are short and the nights are long, ‘tis the season for Shakespeare’s proverbial “long winter’s nap.”
But who has time for that, with all the holiday shopping, parties, and festivities with loved ones?
Fortunately, research shows you don’t have to follow Shakespeare’s advice when it comes to napping.
A short snooze can improve your heart health
I’ve written before about studies showing that quick “power naps” are beneficial to your health—as long as they don’t last more than 30- to 45- minutes.
For instance, according to the National Sleep Foundation, a 20-minute nap can jump-start your motor skills and make you more attentive.1
And now, a new study shows that short daytime naps just once or twice a week can boost your cardiovascular health.2
Swiss researchers analyzed the association between the duration and frequency of daytime napping and the risks of heart disease and stroke.
They followed nearly 3,500 healthy people, ages 35 to 75, for more than five years. At the end of the study, the researchers found that the people who took one or two naps per week, ranging from five- to 60-minutes each, had a stunning 48 percent less risk of suffering a heart attack, heart failure, or stroke than people who didn’t nap at all.
And interestingly, this percentage didn’t increase or decrease when naps were of longer duration or greater frequency. Meaning that any type of napping is good for your heart, even if it’s just a quick “cat nap.”
Although, according to the National Sleep Foundation, timing does matter. In fact, the ideal time to take a nap is between 1 and 3 p.m., when your blood sugar and energy levels naturally start to drop after your midday meal.
The older we get, the more we need naps
Other research makes it clear that getting enough sleep at night is associated with better overall health, including heart health. But the older we get, the harder it is to get a full night of shuteye—that is, at least seven hours’ worth.
And this new study suggests that adding a daytime nap once or twice a week may help with that dilemma. After all, the added rest certainly doesn’t hurt, and could actually substantially improve heart health. In fact, it may be just what nature intends for us as we age.
If you’re having trouble catching those Z’s—either at nighttime or with a daytime nap—I have five sure-fire tips to help:
Reward yourself. Establish a nighttime routine where you relax and reward yourself before climbing into bed. This reward should be something enjoyable and relaxing, like reading a book, listening to music, soaking in a hot tub, or talking to a partner about the better things in life.
Spend less time in bed. When you use your bedroom for work, watching TV, texting, or activities not associated with sleep, it sends the wrong signals to the mind and body. You should try to think of your bed and bedroom as a sanctuary for sleeping instead—whether for the night, or your daytime nap.
First things first in the morning. Just 15 minutes of natural light in the morning helps set your circadian alarm clock to be in synch with waking and sleeping times. So, when you wake, go immediately outside, or into the sun indoors, to get some exposure to natural light. Plus, if you expose some skin to the sun, it also helps boost your vitamin D levels!
Get moving. Try to get your blood pumping at some point during the day. Remember, I always recommend 20- to 30-minutes of moderate exercise daily—like walking, swimming, hiking, or gardening.
Be careful with your sleep supplements. Melatonin is not a supplement I recommend. People tend to overuse it, and it makes them groggy the next day. Instead, I recommend kava—an herbal remedy from the South Pacific that assists with relaxation and sleep at doses of 200 to 400 mg daily (taken at night). You can also try 400 mg of valerian, a cup of warm milk or caffeine-free beverage, one to two alcoholic drinks (just wait an hour or two after drinking before you go to sleep), or meditation, as I discussed on pg. 3.
2“Association of napping with incident cardiovascular events in a prospective cohort study.” Heart. 2019 Sep 9. pii: heartjnl-2019-314999.