Napping, along with getting too much or too little sleep or having poor sleep habits, appears to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in older adults, new research has found.
The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, adds to a growing body of evidence supporting the importance of sleep for good health. The American Heart Association recently added sleep duration to its checklist of health and lifestyle factors for cardiovascular health, known as Life’s Essential 8. It states that adults should on average seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
“Good sleep behavior is essential for maintaining cardiovascular health in middle-aged and older adults,” said lead author Weili Xu, senior researcher at the Center for Aging Research in the Department of Neurobiology, Human Sciences. care and society at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Sweden. “We encourage people to get seven to nine hours of sleep at night and avoid frequent or excessive naps.”
Previous research has shown that poor quality sleep can put people at higher risk for chronic diseases and conditions that affect heart and brain health. These include cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 35% of American adults report sleeping less than seven hours, while 3.6% say they sleep 10 hours or more.
Previous studies on sleep duration show that sleeping too much or too little can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. But whether the nap is good or bad is unclear.
In the new study, researchers analyzed the sleep patterns of 12,268 adults in the Swedish Twin Registry. Participants were on average 70 years old at the start of the study, with no history of major cardiovascular events.
A questionnaire was used to collect data on nocturnal sleep duration; daytime nap; Daytime sleepiness; the extent to which they considered themselves nocturnal or early morning, depending on the time of day when they considered themselves most alert; and symptoms of sleep disturbances, such as snoring and insomnia. Participants were followed for up to 18 years to determine if they developed major cardiovascular problems, including heart disease and stroke.
People who reported sleeping between seven and nine hours each night were the least likely to develop cardiovascular disease, a finding consistent with previous research. Compared to this group, those who reported less than seven hours were 14% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, and those who reported more than 10 hours were 10% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
Compared to people who said they never took a nap, those who said they took a nap for up to 30 minutes were 11% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. The risk increased by 23% if the naps lasted more than 30 minutes. Overall, those who reported poor sleep habits or other sleep problems — including insomnia, loud snoring, sleeping too much or too little, frequent daytime sleepiness, and considering themselves a nocturnal person — had a 22% higher risk
Study participants who reported sleeping less than seven hours a night and taking naps longer than 30 minutes a day had the highest risk of cardiovascular disease – 47% higher than those reporting the optimal amount of sleep and no nap.
The jury is still out on whether naps affect cardiovascular risk across the lifespan, said Marie-Pierre St-Onge, director of the Sleep Center of Excellence and associate professor at Columbia University in New York. She noted that the new research, in which she was not involved, was limited to older people.
Rather than trying to claw back sleep time by napping, people should try to develop healthier sleep habits that allow them to get an optimal amount of sleep at night, St-Onge said. This includes making sure the sleeping environment isn’t too hot or cold or too noisy. Reducing exposure to bright light before going to sleep, not eating too late at night, getting enough exercise during the day, and eating a healthy diet also helps.
“Even if sleep is lost at night, excessive napping is not suggested during the day,” Xu said. And, if people have persistent difficulty getting enough sleep, they should see a medical professional to figure out why, she said.
If you have questions or comments about this American Heart Association News story, please email [email protected].