young adult man sleeping during the day, cuddled in bed. A sign of sleep apnea In Mediterranean cultures, napping is a normal part of the daily routine. It’s part of people’s normal sleep pattern, and it’s associated with positive health, presumably because it helps relieve stress.

However, in cultures where napping is not a normal part of a routine, it may be a sign of sleeping problems that can lead to early death, according to numerous studies of sleeping habits. If you think your napping is a sign of significant health problems, contact your doctor or an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center today.

Daytime Napping Associated with a Higher Risk of Death

One of the pioneering studies on the subject, published in 2009, looked at a total of more than 67,000 Japanese adults aged 40-79 years. They followed these adults for 3-5 years after a lifestyle questionnaire, which asked them, among other things, about napping.

Looking at the nearly 10,000 deaths that occurred during follow-up, researchers showed that napping was associated with a higher risk of many different categories of death, including:

  • All-cause mortality: 19% higher risk
  • Cardiovascular death (CVD): 31% higher risk
  • Non CVD / Non-cancer disease-related death: 26% higher risk
  • Death from external causes: 28% higher risk

Note that death from external causes includes death from injury (such as a car accident or work accident) and poisoning.

Longer Napping Means Higher Risk

In this 2014 study, researchers followed more than 16,000 Britons for more than 13 years. They correlated the number of deaths with the napping habits of individuals and found that napping was correlated with a significantly higher risk of all-cause mortality.

Researchers found that people who napped for less than an hour a day were 14% more likely to die, while those who napped for one hour or longer were 32% more likely to die. This overall mortality correlation was independent of age, sex, social class, education level, marital status, employment status, body mass index, physical activity level, smoking status, alcohol intake, time spent in bed at night, and other confounders.

When looking at deaths due to respiratory illness for people under age 65, the correlation was even higher. People who napped for less than an hour a day were 40% more likely to die of respiratory illness, while those who napped for more than an hour a day were 156% more likely to die of a respiratory illness.

Meta-Analysis Confirms Association with Death

One way to check the validity of data in studies is to pool them together into a single, larger study. Although different study designs can limit the comparisons you make, pooling multiple studies can improve statistical confidence by creating a larger sample size. In 2015, researchers published the results of their meta-analysis on studies on napping and the risk of death. Pooling 12 studies with a total of 130,000 subjects and nearly 20,000 deaths, researchers confirmed that napping was associated with a 22% higher risk of death.

However, while the study showed a 20% higher risk for CVD with napping, this was not statistically significant. Cancer death risk had even less statistical significance.

A More Nuanced Look at Napping and Cardiovascular Health

While all these studies seem to agree that all-cause mortality increases in people who nap, links between napping and specific causes of death seem harder to confirm. A new 2022 study might help us to understand why. In this study, which looked at two different samples of American adults, researchers divided people into four different sleeping types: good sleepers, nappers, dissatisfied/inefficient sleepers, and irregular sleepers. Compared to good sleepers, irregular sleepers didn’t have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Nappers showed a 38% higher risk of cardiovascular disease in one sample but not the other. However, dissatisfied/inefficient sleepers showed elevated cardiovascular risk in both samples.

In other words, it might not be napping that is linked to cardiovascular problems. Instead, poor sleep–which might also cause people to nap–could be the real cause of daytime sleepiness.

What Does Your Napping Mean?

Napping can be a pleasant diversion in the middle of the day. It’s nice sometimes to let yourself doze off of an afternoon and enjoy a little respite from the world.

However, if you find yourself suffering daily from fatigue and feeling the need for a nap, it’s quite possible that it’s a sign of a serious health problem. You should talk to your doctor or a sleep dentist in Omaha. Some conditions associated with daytime sleepiness include:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Anemia
  • Heart disease
  • Menopause

One of the most common and serious causes of daytime fatigue is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea disrupts your nighttime sleeping, leaving you feeling unrested during the day. Along with sapping your energy, sleep apnea strains your heart and brain, leading to other serious causes, including cardiovascular disease and mood disorders.

Relief from Daytime Sleepiness in Omaha

Napping occasionally may not be a cause for alarm. However, if you nap regularly because you experience chronic daytime sleepiness, it might be time to talk to a sleep doctor or sleep dentist in Omaha. The Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha is a nationwide leader in helping people get relief from sleep apnea.

If you are napping because you feel you have to, not because you want to, let us help. For an appointment at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha, Nebraska, please call (402) 493-4175 today.