12 February 2007

Naps are Good for you!

Taking 40 winks in the middle of the day may reduce the risk of death from heart disease, particularly in young healthy men, say researchers.

A six-year Greek study found that those who took a 30-minute siesta at least three times a week had a 37% lower risk of heart-related death.

By the way, this photo that accompanied the BBC summary doesn't look much like the usual nap that I am familiar with, though I suppose some sort of post-coital nap might be suggested here.

I hope they didn't spend too much money to prove this. We all know this I suppose instinctively from little on, though our certainty varies over the years. As an infant there is no argument, we just know it. Then we have to be persuaded a little in later childhood because we are fairly certain that something interesting will happen just as soon as we fall asleep.


My brother Gerald and I used to spend a fair amount of time on my grandfather's dairy farm, especially in the summer. Because the day started around 5 am on the farm, and the main meal, fairly sizeable, was taken at mid-day, my grandparents would always take an hour-long nap right after dinner, that is what it was called. Gerald and I did not have to sleep but we did have to be very quiet so as not to disturb Grandpa and Grandma. We could hear them snoring and we took no breaths at all if the snoring stopped for whatever reason. Sometimes we couldn't resist the urge to trick the other into making an identifiable sound, though I don't know why as Grandpa was unhappy with both of us for any noise that was made.

I think it was in college that the notion of the goodness of late afternoon naps again came to mind. This idea persisted throughout all that period of time when one could be expected to be wakened at any hour of the night, as in residency training, say through age 30 for me as it took that long to finish my post-graduate medical training.

Then I remember having to put down at least a pint every lunch when I was serving with Her Majesty's Royal Air Force, which naturally encouraged a little snooze soon after.

In my 40s I thought I was indispensable at work so I got out of the habit of a nap, and only sometime in my 50s did I finally come to my senses again, probably when I first started seriously reflecting on turning perhaps the penultimate corner, all the time getting closer to the homestretch.

Now, in my 60s it's a no-brainer: Naps, about an hour, either early or late afternoon, are a good and necessary thing. I have no idea whether it is good for your heart. Using the argument favored by the environmental wackos, if there is any chance that it might do you some good, then we ought to certainly go out of our way to take advantage of one of nature's really good ideas. This is a form of Mr Pascal's famous wager in favor of Christianity. You can't really lose, can you.

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