We all like a good nap; however, a recent study has linked daytime napping to increased risk of death. This study was conducted by Yue Leng, a University of Cambridge epidemiologist. After examining 16,000 British men and women, and analyzing their napping habits (and accounting for things like age, sex, social class, educational level, marital status, employment status, body mass index, physical activity level, smoking status, alcohol intake, depression, self-reported general health, use of hypnotic drugs...and a host of other factors), Leng and his team found that people who take naps are about a third more likely to die before the age on 65.
This may sound rather shocking, but there is no reason to start getting your affairs in order just yet. When you stop to think about it, the findings actually make a bit of sense. One would assume that a person who feels rundown a lot, and, as a result, takes a lot of naps, might be more likely to have extenuating health issues. Extenuating health issues: this is where the research is significant. This study does not mean that naps cause one to die at a younger age. Primarily, it means that napping may be indicative of other health issues. As the study notes, "Excessive daytime napping might be a useful marker of underlying health risk, particularly of respiratory problems, especially among those 65 years of age or younger...In recent years, there has been growing evidence of a relationship between habitual sleep and the risk of mortality from all-causes and cardiovascular diseases."
The researchers also said that napping, in itself, may be harmful as napping triggers inflammation in the body; however, napping for short periods has proven to be beneficial. 85% of those who napped less that an hour showed no signs of concern. In short, the key, it seems, is moderation.
It is also important to note that people nap for a variety of reasons. Some cultures have naps working into their daily cycles, other cultures utilize naps as a form of meditation and relaxation, and (or course) new parents might be a bit more prone to napping. However, once all of these things are taken into consideration, it appears that frequent napping may be cause for concern (particularly if you are napping more than an hour).
Notably, previous studies focused specifically on the amount of sleep that individuals were getting at night, and generally found that the amount of sleep that once receives could be linked to health issues. Ultimately, the Cambridge research is attempting to add to these findings and better understand the relationship between sleep patterns and overall health.
You can read the full study here.