Siesta Scares

New Study Links Regular Napping With Two Serious Health Conditions

A new study took aim at one of the world’s most important pastimes: the cat nap.

Originally Published: 
Caucasian senior man sleeping with Maltese dog on the sofa
miodrag ignjatovic/E+/Getty Images

Potentially bad news for all you nappers out there. Turns out everyone’s favorite indulgence is linked to some pretty serious health problems.

According to a new study published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, people who take frequent naps were more likely to develop high blood pressure or have a stroke than their fully awake and well-rested counterparts.

Researchers analyzed the records of 358,451 individuals between the ages of 40 and 69 who lived in the United Kingdom. Their information was collected in the UK Biobank, a database used for biomedical research that followed participants from 2006 to 2010.

Participants provided regular urine, blood, and saliva samples for inclusion in the Biobank and self-reported lifestyle information. Napping frequency questions were included for a portion of participants four times between 2006 and 2010 and included responses of “never/rarely,” “sometimes,” or “usually.” Those who had already been diagnosed with hypertension or stroke were excluded from the study.

Those who reported frequent napping were 12% more likely to develop high blood pressure and 24% more likely to have a stroke than non-nappers. For individuals under the age of 60, frequent naps increased the likelihood of developing high blood pressure to 20%.

Please excuse us while we cry into our recently napped-upon pillow.

The findings “may be because, although taking a nap itself is not harmful, many people who take naps may do so because of poor sleep at night. Poor sleep at night is associated with poorer health, and naps are not enough to make up for that," explained Michael A. Grandner, Ph.D., MTR, a sleep expert and co-author of the American Heart Association’s new Life’s Essential 8 cardiovascular health score in a release for the study. "This study echoes other findings that generally show that taking more naps seems to reflect increased risk for problems with heart health and other issues.”

So if your naps are precious to you, just be sure that they aren’t replacing a good night’s sleep. It’s also important to note that many of the participants who reported napping also reported smoking and daily alcohol consumption, two major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, as well as snoring and insomnia, all of which are known sleep disrupters and can lead to poor quality nighttime sleep. Many also reported being night owls.

Also, study participants were all middle-aged, and the majority were of European descent, so additional research is necessary to determine if results are repeatable among a variety of age groups, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds. All sleep information was self-reported, which is not the gold standard for such studies. Furthermore, only information regarding nap frequency was recorded, not nap duration.

The American Heart Association recently added sleep duration to its list of metrics for determining cardiovascular health — Life’s Essential 8. “The new metric of sleep duration reflects the latest research findings: sleep impacts overall health, and people who have healthier sleep patterns manage health factors such as weight, blood pressure, or risk for Type 2 diabetes more effectively,” American Heart Association President Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Sc.M., FAHA said in a release for the updated list.

This article was originally published on