Doctor's Casebook - with Dr Keith Souter: Siestas are good for you

Salerno, an Italian port a little south of Naples, can proudly boast of having one of the oldest universities in the world.

Saturday, 20th February 2021, 12:30 pm
A daytime nap can be beneficial

Carved above its entrance door was the maxim of the medical school: Rest after lunch; after supper walk. Think about it and you will see that it was advice to have a siesta.

I have been an advocate of the siesta for many years, and have reported on research that suggests that it is good for both the heart and the brain.

In one five-year-long study of over 23,000 men, it was found that individuals who took a siesta for 30 minutes or more at least three times per week, had a 37 per cent lower risk of a heart attack than those who never took a siesta at all.

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Another study reported that an hour-long nap in the afternoon may boost brain function in older adults.

They did this by having people take a series of mental tests that involved mathematical calculation and memory recalls in the afternoon.

Staggeringly, the hour-long siesta takers performed six times better than those who did not have an afternoon sleep.

Research from the USA has looked at the effect of the siesta on blood pressure.

In one large study they found that an hour-long siesta has the same effect of lowering blood pressure as does salt and alcohol restriction. That is, it seems to be associated with about a 5 mm reduction in pressure.

The researchers suggest that in addition to usual blood pressure treatment, an afternoon snooze for up to an hour can help to bring the blood pressure down even further.

Yet another research study from China has just been published in the journal General Psychiatry.

Over two thousand adults over the age of 60 years with no known health problems at all were invited to take part in the study.

Two thirds had a regular siesta of up to two hours a day. They all were given the standard Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) to check for dementia.

They found a highly significant better score among the siesta takers than those who did not nap.

During the pandemic, people are having to work and live differently.

If you can, there are several reasons why incorporating a short siesta may be good for your health.