Sometimes nothing is the best thing to do

Friday, February 16, 2007

For those of us addicted to a noontime snooze, it was vindicating news.

And for those who depend on productive workers, it was an indication that allowing a brief rest period during the work day might even pay dividends.

In the largest study of its kind, 23,681 healthy Greek adults were tracked for an average of about six years.

Those who napped at least three times weekly for about half an hour had a 37 percent lower risk of dying from heart attacks or other heart problems than those who did not nap.

Experts surmise that naps benefit the heart by reducing stress, and what more common source of stress than a job?

According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, most of the participants were in their 50s, and men seemed to show the most benefit.

Naps are probably just as beneficial for women, but not enough of them died during the study to be sure, according to senior author Dr. Dimitrios Trichopoulos, who is a researcher at Harvard University and the University of Athens Medical School.

Trichopoulos and his fellow researchers aren't sure how stress causes heart disease, whether it's through stress hormones or resulting bad habits like overeating and smoking. Even after they factored those in, however, napping seemed to help.

And, other U.S. studies have pointed to more productive days for workers who are refreshed by a quick snooze during the day.

They show that 20 minutes of sleep in the afternoon provides more rest than 20 minutes more sleep in the morning -- although the last couple of hours in the morning are special in their own way.

Experts say to sleep no more than half an hour, so you don't enter deeper stages of sleep from which it is harder to wake up, and it doesn't interfere with night sleep.

But not having enough sleep hurts your reaction time, judgment, vision, information processing, short-term memory, performance, motivation, vigilance and patience, according to experts. A daytime nap can help overcome such a harmful sleep deficit.

It's easy for those of us who live close to work to catch a short nap over an hour lunch break, but not so for those who commute to work. Perhaps a lounge or other comfortable rest area would be a good investment for those who employ out-of-town workers -- provided, of course, those workers don't abuse the privilege.

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