People who frequently take naps during the day may be more at risk for high blood pressure and strokes, according to new research.
A new study published Monday in an American Heart Association journal Hypertension, examined 360,000 participants who provided blood, urine and saliva samples, as well as detailed information about their lifestyles. Participants also self-reported whether they nap "never/rarely," "sometimes" or "usually."
Researchers found that adults who napped often were 12% more likely to develop high blood pressure and 24% more likely to have a stroke. But that doesn't mean the napping causes these health issues — instead, napping may be due to unhealthy behaviors. The researchers found that a high percentage of frequent nappers reported cigarette smoking, daily drinking, insomnia and other factors that could contribute to health-related issues.
Dr. Margaret Blattner, clinical instructor, department of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, tells PEOPLE that habitual daytime naps can indicate problems with the quality of nighttime sleep or even overall health.
"Frequent or prolonged daytime naps can disrupt healthy nighttime sleep. Napping during the day may make it harder to fall asleep at night or cause nighttime sleep to become fragmented," Blattner tells PEOPLE. "Missing out on nighttime sleep — either because busy schedules don't allow sufficient sleep opportunity, or because of a problem with the quality of sleep itself — can cause severe daytime sleepiness."
Quality sleep is healthy and restorative for the body, Blattner says, so a change in sleep habits, either needing more sleep at night or naps during the day, might signal an underlying health problem.
"Often, prolonged naps are less restorative than more brief daytime naps, people often wake up unrefreshed or "groggy" after a long nap," she adds. "Additionally, long daytime naps take away time from other healthy things that people enjoy during the day: spending time with family, enjoying hobbies, and exercise."
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When napping during the day becomes unpredictable, uncontrollable, or prevents an individual from accomplishing what they need or want to do, it could indicate a possible sleep disorder. Blattner suggests talking to a doctor if you're falling asleep unintentionally during the day, especially in settings like school, work, or while driving.
But Blattner assures that taking naps can also be beneficial.
"Napping is not always a cause for concern. Taking a nap can be refreshing and enjoyable," she says. "The key is, are you missing out on things that you enjoy because you are too sleepy to stay awake — that can indicate a problem — or does the nap help you get more out of your day."
"Taking a brief nap can feel restorative, reduce stress, and improve focus. Early afternoon is a good time to nap, as this aligns with a circadian dip in energy," Blattner continues. "However, napping too late into the afternoon or evening may impact nighttime sleep quality and make it harder to fall asleep."