Why Napping Might Be Bad for Older Adults: New Study

NNew research has shown that older adults are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease if they have a tendency to applaud, or sleep too few or too often, and both of these factors can increase their risk.

The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, adds to a growing body of evidence supporting sleep’s importance to 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. Adults should get seven to nine hours of rest each night, according to this report.

“Good sleep behavior is essential to preserve cardiovascular health in middle-aged and older adults,” said lead author Weili Xu, a senior researcher at the Aging Research Center in the department of neurobiology, care sciences and society at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. “We encourage people to keep nighttime sleeping between seven to nine hours and to avoid frequent or excessive napping.”

Research has previously shown that poor sleep can increase the risk of a variety of chronic diseases and conditions, including those affecting brain and heart health. They include high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Nearly 35% of Americans say that they sleep less than seven hours a night and only 3.6% claim they get more than 10 hours.

Studies on sleep duration have shown that excessive or insufficient sleeping can increase the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. It is not clear if napping is beneficial or harmful.

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Researchers analyzed the sleep patterns of 12,268 people in the Swedish Twin Registry. The average age of participants was 70, and there were no previous cardiovascular incidents.

To collect information on daytime sleeping duration, daytime napping, daytime sleepiness, and whether they consider themselves to be a morning or night person, the questionnaire was completed. It also asked for data about the times they felt most awake, as well as symptoms such sleep disorders like snoring, insomnia, and daytime sleepiness. To track any serious cardiovascular issues, such as stroke or heart disease, participants were kept up to 18 years.

The most likely people to suffer from cardiovascular disease were those who reported sleeping seven-to nine hours per night, which is consistent with previous research. Comparing with the rest, people who reported sleeping less than 7 hours a night were 14% more likely than those who reported sleeping more than 9 hours a night. Those who reported sleeping more than 10 hours a day were 10% more likely than those who reported reporting more.

People who report that they nap for more than 30 minutes a day are 11% less likely to get cardiovascular disease. A longer nap time of 30 minutes or more increased the chance of developing cardiovascular disease by 23%. Overall, those who reported poor sleep patterns or other sleep issues – including insomnia, heavy snoring, getting too much or too little sleep, frequent daytime sleepiness and considering themselves a night person – had a 22% higher risk.

Study participants who reported less than seven hours of sleep at night and napping more than 30 minutes each day had the highest risk for cardiovascular disease – 47% higher than those reporting the optimal amount of sleep and no naps.

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Marie-Pierre St-Onge (center director of the Sleep Center of Excellence) said that the jury is not yet out regarding whether naps can affect cardiovascular risk throughout life. She’s also an associate professor at Columbia University. The new research she did not participate in was only for older people, said St-Onge.

St-Onge stated that people shouldn’t try to recover sleep by sleeping in, but should develop better sleep habits to ensure they get the best sleep possible at night. It is important to make sure that your sleep environment doesn’t get too hot, cold, or noisy. It is important to reduce your exposure to light, avoid eating at night and to get enough exercise throughout the day.

“Even if sleep is lost during the night, excessive napping is not suggested during the day,” Xu said. She also suggested that people who have trouble sleeping should seek medical advice if they are having difficulty getting sufficient sleep.

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