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Siestas and your heart: Can you nap your way to health?

January 1, 2008

Here in the United States, many people consider eight hours an ideal amount of sleep — and most of them expect those eight hours to come in one block at night. But in Latin America, Mediterranean countries, and other parts of the world, the ideal slumber follows quite a different pattern. In sunny climates, people like to retreat from the heat and stress of a busy day for an afternoon siesta, then make up the difference by staying up late at night.

Cultural norms evolve to suit the needs and preferences of particular societies. But human biology is much the same in Athens and Chicago. Perhaps, then, a study of siestas in Greece will help Americans understand their own choices for healthful sleep. The study also raises the interesting possibility that a daily siesta may help ward off heart disease.

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