Having an afternoon nap once or twice a week could help you live longer, say scientists

Napping just once or twice a week may significantly reduce your risk of a heart attack and stroke, a brand new study has found.

The findings were the result of a study involving nearly 3,500 people living in Switzerland and were published on Monday in the journal Heart.

"We looked at healthy adults and found that people who take occasional naps - once or twice a week - had a lower risk for cardiovascular disease compared to people who were not napping at all," said Nadine Häusler, an internist at University Hospital of Lausanne, and lead author of the new research.

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The participants, aged between 35 and 75, were tracked by the researchers over a period of five years.

They were all in reasonably good health, with no indicators that they were suffering or prone to conditions such as heart disease, and none were excessively sleep-deprived.

58 per cent of the participants revealed that they never napped during the day, while about one in 10 of them admitted to getting some daytime shut-eye on an almost daily basis.

One in five generally took naps no more than once or twice a week, which researchers concluded was the optimum amount where lowering the risk of heart attack, stroke or heart failure was concerned.

Throughout the study, there were 155 heart attacks or strokes, but those who napped a couple of times a week almost halved their risk of developing such life-threatening conditions. Indeed, according to the authors of the study, they had a 48 per cent reduced risk of heart attacks or stroke in comparison with those who did not nap at all.

Serene woman napping in armchair Credit: Getty

"It could be that that these people who nap once to twice a week are those who make napping a priority, because they know they don't sleep enough during the week," said Céline Vetter, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder who studies circadian rhythms and sleep disruption. Vetter had no involvement with this particular study.

The length of these naps did not seem to have an impact on the findings, and ranged from a brief five-minute nap to an hour or more of sleep.

Häusler hypothesised that taking a nap "released stress", which is perhaps why it has such a positive impact on our health.