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expert reaction to study looking at napping and risk of heart attack and stroke

Research, published in the journal Heart, reports that taking a nap once or twice a day may lower the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.


Prof Stephen MacMahon FMedSci, The George Institute for Global Health, University of Oxford, said:

“Sleep patterns have previously been reported to be associated with a range of chronic medical conditions.  Some are unsurprising, such as dementia, others less so, such as breast cancer.  Some, but not all, these associations will reflect the effects of underlying chronic disease on sleep rather than the converse.  It’s often difficult to untangle what is cause and effect, especially when some serious conditions, such as coronary heart disease, can be largely symptom-free for decades prior to a critical complication such as a heart attack.”


Prof Naveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine, University of Glasgow, said:

“Somewhat interesting but seems like those who nap 1-2 times per week have healthier lifestyles or organised lives that allow them to have these naps, whereas those who nap nearly every day are likely to be more sick – this means the former pattern of occasional napping is intentional and the latter of more regular napping likely represents sub-clinical illness linked to poorer lifestyle.  This would then explain the differential risks.

“I don’t think one can work out from this work whether “intentional” napping on one or two days per week improves heart health so no one should take from this that napping is a way to lessen their heart attack risk – to prove that would require proper trials but I’m not sure how feasible these would be.  For now, far better to aim for regular good night’s sleeps and to follow usual lifestyle advice of good diets and decent activity levels.”


‘Association of napping with incident cardiovascular events in a prospective cohort study’ by Nadine Häusler et al. was published in Heart at 23:30 UK time on Monday 9 September 2019. 

DOI: doi 10.1136/heartjnl-2019-314999


Declared interests

Prof Naveed Sattar: “None.”

None others received.

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