Technology & Science

Siestas have heart-healthy effects, study suggests

Taking a nap after lunch may help lower the risk of death from heart disease, especially for men, Greek researchers say.

Taking a nap after lunch may help lower the risk of death from heart disease, especially for men, Greek researchers say.

Dr. Dimitrios Trichopoulos of Harvard University and the University of Athens Medical School and his teamtracked 23,681 healthy Greek adults for an average of about six years.

Men who napped 30 minutes at least three times a week showed a 37 per cent lower risk of dying from heart attacks or other heart problems compared to non-nappers, the team reports in Monday's issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

The link was strongest in men who were working, compared to unemployed. Too few women were assessed to tell if they benefit from siestas, too.

"My advice is if you can [nap], do it. If you have a sofa in your office, if you can relax, do it," Trichopoulos said.

Among those studied, heart problems killed 48 women, including six female workers, compared with 85 men, including 28 employees.

The results are more convincing given that other factors that cause heart disease, such as smoking, diet and exercise, were all accounted for.

Scientists don't know why naps may be beneficial. Neurologist and sleep specialist Dr. Bryan Murray of Toronto said he suspects that siestas help ease the stress that builds up throughout the day, allowing the heart to take a break.

"I think this is just further evidence of the importance of good quality sleep in your overall health," Murray said.

It's also possible that nappers simply take better care of themselves or the rest helps them overcome the unhealthy effects of stress hormones.

Although siestas are part of the culture in some warmer climates, few employers in North America encourage staff to sleep on the job.

Intuit Canada is an exception. "You're a lot more productive if you take that time," said Cheryll Watson, a manager atIntuit Canada, where employees are offered nap rooms. "Lay down, rest your eyes."

Trevor Cook, a software engineer with Intuit, is one of the staffers who takes advantage of the company's nap policy. It helps him to recharge his batteries and refocus to prevent burn out, he said.

With files from the Associated Press

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