Have you taken a nap today? If not, have you wanted to? Napping is not “abnormal.” In fact, humans are probably supposed to nap in the afternoon when our circadian rhythm takes a dive. In most cultures, though, napping during the day is thought of as a sign of slacking or overall laziness. On the other hand, other cultures, such as the Spanish culture, do not frown on taking naps. But in these cultures, who needs the naps the most? If someone was ultra sleep deprived – let’s say because they suffer from sleep apnea – would they need to take naps more frequently?
A team has already taken on this question to explore the napping characteristics among a population in Caceres, Spain. Phone interviews were conducted to gather research subjects who were regular nappers and those who were not regular nappers. In this study, a napper was defined as someone taking at least 5 naps per week, with each nap lasting 30 minutes or more (sounds amazing, right?). After these groups were chosen, a large number of them (about 180) were given a full overnight sleep study to search for any signs of sleep apnea.
When comparing the prevalence and severity of sleep apnea between nappers and non-nappers, the nappers, not surprisingly, had a higher rate and severity of sleep apnea across the board. In addition, the napper group was shown to have higher overall level of sleepiness, a poorer self-reported quality of life, and a larger proportion of subjects with hypertension1.
Although it is not entirely possible to link sleep apnea directly to hypertension, sleepiness, and quality of life in the nappers, it is probable that sleep apnea does play a role. Important to consider, though, is that this population is somewhat lop-sided, being that the nappers also had a higher BMI and a higher level of overall alcohol intake (factors both independently associated with sleep apnea). It could be that an overall unhealthier lifestyle of these individuals raises their risk for apnea. A study regarding treated vs. untreated sleep apnea suffers who nap and do not nap would shed more light on this relationship.
1. Masa JF, Rubio M, Pérez P, Mota M, de Cos JS, Montserrat JM. Association between habitual naps and sleep apnea. Sleep. 2006 Nov;29(11):1463-8.