Can A Siesta Actually Improve Your Health?

Perhaps one of the most striking observations to Americans vacationing abroad for the first time is the socially acceptable, and often encouraged, mid-day siesta many European countries abide by. Typically, in countries like Spain, Italy, and Greece, businesses and public venues may shut down for a few hours mid-day for a time of rest, before continuing on with their work and tasks into the later part of the day (via This emphasis on mid-day rest and well-being is almost unimaginable in the hustle and bustle of American life, but perhaps Europeans are on to something better.

Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults aged 18-60 should get at least seven hours of sleep per night. However, nearly one-third of adults report getting less than the recommended amount of sleep regularly. Lack of sleep has been shown to be detrimental to overall health and well-being and has been linked to increased incidence of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, and depression, among other conditions.

Can a nap during the day help you feel more rested and help improve your health? Let's see what the science says.

The science behind napping

The scientific survey on the topic of mid-day napping is not conclusive, indicating a need for more robust and specific studies.

One 2015 scientific review that investigated daytime napping and risk of death from all causes found that daytime napping was in fact a predictor of increased all-cause mortality. It did not find an increase in cardiovascular disease or cancer deaths in those who napped.

Another recent study looked more deeply into any association between napping and cardiovascular health in particular (via BMJ Journal). They concluded that individuals who napped once or twice per week had a lower risk of cardiovascular events. They did not, however, note any association in individuals who napped more frequently or between nap duration.

On the effects of napping and cardiovascular health, Dr. Sujay Kansagra M.D., a board certified Sleep medicine physician, told Healthline, "We know that sleep is vital for maintaining overall health. Sleep is a time where blood pressure and heart rate overall tend to be lower than while you are awake, so it's likely playing a role in restoration of the heart." When it comes to the proper duration of napping he recommends either 20 to 30 minutes or more than 90 minutes. Dr. Kansagra says, "Waking up in between these times may lead to grogginess since the body gets into the deeper stages of sleep during that time."

In the end, perhaps the best thing you can do for your health is to make sure you get the recommended amount of sleep nightly and pace yourself with work throughout the day. Taking breaks often can help you avoid that mid-day slump as well.