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Popular Habit Known As Healthy May Be Increasing Your Risk Of Obesity, High Blood Pressure

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Unbeknownst to You, the Healthy Habit You’re Practicing May Actually Contribute to Obesity, High Blood Pressure, and Metabolic Syndrome.

Obesity is a major public health concern that affects more than one billion people worldwide. Fat accumulation in the body is closely linked to how food is digested during metabolic processes.

To better understand the impact of lifestyle choices on metabolic mechanisms and overall health, researchers are exploring the relationship between taking midday naps or siestas and metabolic health.

In certain cultures, it is customary for people to take a midday nap or siesta. While this practice can potentially impact sleep quality, cognitive function, and metabolic processes, its influence on metabolic health is not well-understood.

Are naps good for you?

Recently, a study led by experts from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a founding member of the Mass General Brigham healthcare system, examined more than 3,000 adults from a Mediterranean population to investigate the connection between siestas, siesta duration, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.

According to the study published in Obesity, individuals who regularly take long siestas of 30 minutes or more have a higher risk of developing obesity, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome – a cluster of conditions that increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

On the other hand, individuals who take short siestas, also known as “power naps,” do not have an increased risk of obesity and metabolic alterations. In fact, those who take short siestas are less likely to have elevated systolic blood pressure compared to those who do not take any siestas.

Therefore, the duration of the siesta appears to play a critical role in its effects on health. While long siestas can be detrimental to health, short siestas may have some benefits.

“Not all siestas are the same,” remarks senior author Marta Garaulet.

“The length of time, position of sleep, and other specific factors,” according to the author. “can affect the health outcomes of a nap.”

In a previous research study conducted on a large population in the UK, it was discovered that siestas were linked to a higher likelihood of developing obesity.

The objective of this the latest study was to examine if this correlation was consistent in Spain, a country where siestas are deeply embedded in the culture. Additionally, they aimed to investigate how the duration of siestas is linked to metabolic health.

In the study conducted in the Spanish region of Murcia, researchers analyzed data from 3,275 adults living in a Mediterranean population. Baseline metabolic characteristics were measured for all participants at the University of Murcia, and a survey was conducted to gather information about their napping habits and other lifestyle factors. Based on the survey responses, participants were divided into three categories: those who did not take siestas, those who took siestas lasting less than 30 minutes, and those who took siestas lasting longer than 30 minutes.

The results of the study indicated that individuals who took longer siestas had a higher body mass index and were more likely to have metabolic syndrome (MetS) compared to those who did not take siestas. Additionally, the long siesta group had higher values of waist circumference, fasting glucose levels, systolic blood pressure (SBP), and diastolic blood pressure compared to the no-siesta group. The researchers also found that longer siestas were associated with later nightly sleep timing and food timing, increased energy intake at lunch, cigarette smoking, and the location of the siesta (bed vs. sofa), which may help explain the higher risks associated with longer duration siestas.

Although this study is observational, and it’s possible that some factors associated with siestas may be related to obesity rather than the naps themselves, previous research using data from the UK Biobank has suggested a causal link between napping and obesity, especially in terms of abdominal obesity, which is particularly harmful. In this new study, the researchers identified several lifestyle factors that seem to explain the relationship between siestas and various health measures. However, more research is needed to determine whether short naps are more beneficial than longer ones, especially for people who tend to eat and sleep later or who smoke.

Overall, this study suggests that longer siestas may have negative health consequences, including an increased risk for MetS and other related health conditions.

Therefore, it may be beneficial for individuals to limit the duration of their siestas and pay attention to other lifestyle factors that may contribute to poor health outcomes.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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