Get some sleep: It's good for your heart

To the uninitiated, I may have appeared lazy this past weekend. Sacked out on my favorite recliner, waiting for golf to come on television, the sounds of afternoon snoring belied my true activity.

I was not napping; I was maintaining my heart. And a study released in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine suggests I should do the same thing at least two more times this week if I want to reduce the risk of fatal heart problems.

Sounds like doctor's orders we can all follow.

We've all known co-workers who can catch 40 winks during the day, doing head bobs like some sort of exercise regimen, but who knew those folks were on the cutting edge of heart trouble prevention?

The study, in which researchers tracked nearly 24,000 Greek adults for an average of nearly six years, showed that participants who napped for a half hour three times a week had a 37 percent less chance of dying from heart problems than those who didn't.

Talk about the power of the power nap.

The benefits of napping aren't totally quantifiable, but the assumption is that naps help alleviate stress, and stress - both physical and emotional - is linked to heart disease. By reducing stress in the middle of the day, you're giving your heart a break as well as your mind.

The strongest evidence of the preventative nature of napping was among working men, the study said. Which could change the future look of corporate boardrooms if Fortune 500 companies exchange deadlines for nap times and spreadsheets for bed sheets.

But that's not likely. As the researchers noted, naps (or siestas) are part of many cultures but not ours, where we get to take naps as youngsters but are expected to grow out of them.

However, this study hints that our mothers were right - we do need our nap time. Talk about learning all you need to know in kindergarten.

Speaking of which, I was king of the kindergarten nap. It's hard to believe that you got nap time when you were only at school for half a day to begin with, but those breaks gave me an appreciation for naps that I still have today.

And that appreciation makes me (or at least my heart) healthier than I ever knew. Like Dr. Dimitrios Trichopoulos, the study's senior author told the Associated Press:

"My advice is if you can (nap). If you have a sofa in your office, if you can relax, do it."

So if you drop by my office one afternoon and see my head down and my eyes closed, I'm not slacking. I'm just being healthy.

Doctor's orders.

Todd Cline can be reached via e-mail at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Tuesdays.

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