March 17, 2023
With Daylight Savings Time (DST) passing last weekend, your regular sleep schedule may have suffered. While losing an hour of rest might seem like a minor inconvenience, its repercussions on your heart health could be greater than you think.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the risk of heart attack is increased by 24% on the Monday after DST. Researchers suggest that this is likely caused by interruptions to the circadian clock, which regulates cardiovascular function, heart rate, and blood pressure.
For this reason, sleep experts have long supported National Nap Day, which is observed the day following DST. This unofficial holiday promotes napping to offset the negative effects of lost sleep—especially those related to cardiovascular wellness.
Studies have shown that brief afternoon naps can improve overall heart health in 4 key areas:
1. Lower Blood Pressure. High blood pressure puts strain on the heart, increasing the risk for cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke. Studies have shown daily napping to decrease blood pressure by an average of 5mmHg.
2. Reduced Stress Levels. Chronic stress can elevate blood pressure, heart rate, and inflammation, all of which cause arterial damage. Napping induces relaxation and regulates mood, helping to keep stress levels down.
3. Decreased Inflammation. Napping has been associated with lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a key inflammatory marker linked to arterial damage and heart attack.
4. Lessened Risk for Obesity. Sleep deprivation is associated with elevated cortisol levels and growth hormone deficiencies, both of which are linked to weight gain. What’s more, by enriching sleep hygiene, napping can reduce cravings for unhealthy food and encourage higher physical activity levels—both of which ward off obesity.
The good news? You don’t need to save the benefits of napping for National Nap Day. However, as with all good things, naps are best kept in moderation—both in terms of duration and frequency.
According to researchers, it’s best to nap in the early afternoon for no longer than 20-45 minutes: these brief rest periods boost your heart health, without interrupting your nighttime sleeping routine. Conversely, naps longer than 60 minutes have been linked to high blood pressure, diminished physical health, and poor sleep hygiene, all of which negatively affect cardiovascular function.
Further, napping once to twice per week has been found to reduce the risk of heart failure, stroke, and/or heart attack by 48%. Napping beyond this threshold has no additional benefit, and may actually increase your risk of developing high blood pressure by 12%.
With all of this in mind, it’s best to keep your naps short, sweet, and infrequent. Resting for under an hour, 1-2 days per week is optimal: any more, and you may do yourself more harm than good.
Beyond optimizing your post-DST sleep routine, it’s important to examine your heart on a yearly basis to prevent heart attacks—and maintain peak cardiovascular wellness.
At Fountain Life, our AI-guided approach to Coronary Computed Tomography Angiography (CCTA) can detect the warning signs of heart attacks so you can take actions to prevent them. We accurately assess your present-day heart disease risk by identifying newer, soft plaque that is prone to rupture as well whether you have any narrowing of the arteries supplying blood to your heart.