Harvard Heart Letter

Heart beat: As the hammock swings

Heart beat

As the hammock swings

Siesta. Just the thought of a lazy lunch followed by a peaceful nap is enough to lower blood pressure and reduce stress. Whether actually taking one is good for the heart, though, is still swinging in the breeze.

In Greece, at least, napping seems to reduce the risk of dying from heart disease, according to a study published in the Feb. 12, 2007, Archives of Internal Medicine. Working men benefited the most from napping, while it seemed to have little effect on women and on men who were retired.

The topic of napping and heart disease is anything but a relaxing one for researchers. Some studies have shown that nappers are more likely to have heart trouble or die prematurely from it. This could be because the researchers didn't account for existing heart disease, which can interfere with nighttime sleep and cause daytime sleepiness, and thus the need for naps. It is also possible that waking up after a siesta opens a small window of heightened heart attack risk, much like waking up in the morning does.

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