After 50, Beware of the Impact of Afternoon Naps on Lifespan! Follow These “Three Don’ts”

Uncle Wu, aged 63, leads a disciplined retired life: regular meals, early bedtime, early rising, and a short nap after lunch to recharge. He and his wife even engage in evening walks for exercise. However, during this year’s health checkup, he discovered elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Concerned, he stumbled upon articles linking afternoon naps to increased blood pressure, cholesterol, and potential impacts on lifespan. Could his abnormal health indicators be attributed to his daily siestas?

1. Study Involving Nearly 400,000 People: Habitual Afternoon Naps Rejuvenate the Brain by 2.6-6.5 Years

In June 2023, the journal “Sleep Health” published a study indicating a causal relationship between habitual afternoon naps and increased overall brain volume. Researchers surveyed over 378,000 participants from a UK biological database, categorizing them into occasional nappers (38%), frequent nappers (5%), and non-nappers (57%).

Analysis of 92 pre-identified genetic variations related to napping revealed that habitual afternoon nappers showed an increase in overall brain volume by 15.80 cm³. This difference in brain volume corresponds to a deceleration of brain aging by 2.6 to 6.5 years.

Besides, regular afternoon napping offers additional benefits:

  • Reduced Dementia Risk: A study by researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, published in “General Psychiatry,” suggests that afternoon naps can prevent age-related dementia and enhance cognitive agility.
  • Lower Cardiovascular Disease Risk: A study in the journal “Heart” found that individuals napping 1-2 times a week had a 48% lower risk of stroke and heart failure compared to those who never napped.
  • Reduced Heart Attack Risk: A study presented at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting indicated that napping can help lower blood pressure, contributing to a reduced risk of heart attacks.
  • Protective for Vision: Afternoon napping allows the eye’s ciliary muscles to rest, and tear glands produce tears during sleep, benefiting eye health by preventing visual deterioration and relieving eye fatigue.

2. Research Reveals the Optimal Duration for Afternoon Naps: 15-30 Minutes

Although afternoon naps offer several advantages, excessively long naps may have counterproductive effects. A 14-year prospective study conducted by researchers at the University of California on 1,065 elderly individuals revealed a 40% increase in dementia risk for those napping for over an hour compared to those napping less than an hour.

So, what is the ideal nap duration? A study by the University of Valencia in Spain, published in the “European Society of Cardiology,” followed over 20,000 participants for 14 years. The findings suggest that napping for less than 15 minutes decreases atrial fibrillation risk by 42%, and napping for 15-30 minutes reduces the risk by 56%. In contrast, prolonged napping is associated with a 90% increased risk of atrial fibrillation.

Therefore, the research indicates that the optimal nap duration should be maintained between 15 and 30 minutes.

Additionally, certain individuals are advised against afternoon naps:

  • Those with Low Blood Pressure: Frequent napping can increase the risk of accidents for individuals with low blood pressure, as they may experience fatigue and dizziness.
  • Overweight Individuals: Napping may lead to the accumulation of fat from lunch, worsening obesity. Overweight individuals often have issues with blood viscosity, and deep sleep during the day can increase the risk of stroke.
  • Some Cardiovascular Patients: Patients with certain cardiovascular diseases are advised against napping, as it can lead to a decrease in heart rate and cerebral blood flow, increasing the likelihood of cardiovascular incidents, especially if they experience dizziness or headaches upon waking.
  • Those with Sleep Disorders: Individuals who experience frequent insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, or frequent nighttime awakenings are discouraged from napping as it may exacerbate nighttime sleep disturbances, creating a vicious cycle.

3. Healthy Afternoon Napping: Remember the “Three Don’ts”

  1. Don’t Nap on Your Stomach:
    Sleeping on your stomach can lead to neck stiffness, pain, and cervical spine issues. For adolescents, frequent stomach sleeping can even cause spinal curvature and deformities.
  2. Don’t Nap Immediately After Meals:
    Blood circulation primarily concentrates in the stomach for digestion after meals. Napping immediately after lunch can reduce overall blood circulation to the brain and body, causing discomfort and increased fatigue upon waking.
  3. Don’t Nap Too Late:
    It’s generally recommended to nap before 3 pm, as napping too late can disrupt the normal circadian rhythm, potentially leading to difficulty falling asleep when it’s time to sleep.

In conclusion, afternoon napping, when done correctly and in moderation, can be beneficial for cognitive function, cardiovascular health, and overall well-being. Understanding the ideal duration and adhering to healthy nap habits ensures maximum benefits while avoiding potential drawbacks.

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