Heart Health and Naps Go Together

Heart Health and Naps Go Together!

Gene Millen, Author - Revised 4/29/15

When you snooze you win. Naps improve heart health.

Naps get a bad rap. When You Snooze You Win.

Gene Millen, Heart Health CoachDuring my 50th wedding anniversary celebration they (I couldn't pin down who the culprit was) showed the overflow crowd a photo of me snoozing contentedly on the couch...as though this was my customary position.

In my humble opinion naps and nappers don't receive the reverence they deserve-and I back it up with the 2,900-year-old wisdom from a man named Solomon, who said,

"Dear friend, guard Clear Thinking and Common Sense with your life; don't for a minute lose sight of them...You'll take afternoon naps without a worry; you'll enjoy a good night's sleep." Proverbs 3:21-26, The Message Bible.
Surely you're not going to argue with one of the wisest men who ever lived, but if you are so inclined here's some scientific proof that should make the skeptics scratch their head or look for a quiet place after lunch.

Harvard Researchers Discover How Naps Lower Risks of Heart Disease

A new joint study from the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Athens reveals another health benefit associated with daytime naps; lower risk of heart disease.

Researchers recruited 23,000 subjects about their napping habits as well as heart health and lifestyle details. At the outset of the study, none of the subjects had a history of heart disease, stroke or cancer.

After a follow up period of about six years, the researchers adjusted data to account for dietary and lifestyle factors that might skew the outcome. The results:

Subjects who took frequent naps were nearly 35 percent less likely to die from heart disease compared to subjects who rarely napped.
Subjects who said they napped for at least 30 minutes at least three times each week had an even lower risk of heart disease.
Working men who took occasional naps were nearly 65 percent less likely to die from heart disease compared to subjects who seldom napped!

If you're a busy person, you might feel like a slacker if you indulge in a weekday afternoon nap. And heaven help you if you get caught napping at work...you'll probably never live it down.

But new research has added to a growing body of evidence that suggests a brief nap is not a lazy indulgence at all. It's actually an indulgence in heart health, and more.

The brain wave frequency of a sleeping brain is around 5 Hz, while the frequency of a wide-awake brain is around 13 Hz.

When you're dozing off to sleep and experience that unusual sensation of being partly awake while the first odd details of a dream begin to take shape, your brain waves are in a middle zone - somewhere between 5 and 13 Hz.

People who meditate learn to control that zone where the brain is relaxed but alert.

Cornell psychology professor and sleep specialist Dr. James Maas coined the term "power nap" in the late 90s.

A heart health power nap is a brief nap (15 to 25 minutes) in which the brain doesn't dip into deep sleep, but hovers at the low end of that middle zone.

In another recent study 32 middle-aged and elderly subjects were asked to take afternoon naps. Results showed that the naps didn't interfere with night sleep...in fact, some subjects found they slept better at night.

In addition, the subjects had better scores on memory and mental acuity tests during the portion of the study when they were napping daily.

Daytime naps can be one way to treat sleep deprivation, says Sara C. Mednick, PhD, sleep expert and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life.

"You can get incredible benefits from 15 to 20 minutes of napping," she says. "You reset the system and get a burst of alertness and increased motor performance. That's what most people really need to stave off sleepiness and get an energy boost."

Since the heart surgeon sawed open my chest and stitched in bypasses to six of my favorite arteries, taking care of my heart has moved up in my priorities.

I make it a point to take a daily power nap that usually lasts about 20-30 minutes. After I awake from this short snooze I feel refreshed and ready to attack the afternoon.

My advice to you is, if you have an opportunity to take a nap, do it!

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