Posted in biology, science

Is napping bad for you?

Unfortunately, it is often the case that the most enjoyable things in life are also the worst for you. Sweets, coffee, alcohol; the list seems endless. One of the most enjoyable things in life (at least for a student), is a cheeky nap after a particularly trying lecture. However, is it good for you?

There is conflicting evidence surrounding the concept of napping – some suggest that a brief siesta after your 9am lecture could help you lose weight and even boost brain activity, whereas others think that too many naps could increase an individual’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. So, which is the truth?

A study conducted at the University of Tokyo in Japan found that those who napped for longer than an hour per day were 45% more likely to contract Type 2 diabetes than those who did not nap or who napped for less than an hour. Despite this seemingly damning evidence, all is not lost for those who enjoy a longer snooze. It is very likely that the data gathered by the Japanese research team could have been influenced by external factors not recorded in the distributed questionnaire – in fact, it is almost certain. A more recent research project presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes suggested that the correlation between obesity and napping is likely to have influenced the apparent link to diabetes. They argued that the existing obesity epidemic and not the act of napping itself was to blame for the raised diabetes risk.

The claim that napping can help with weight loss can also be swiftly debunked: on average, people who sleep around 5 hours per night tend to gain less than 2kg of weight per year, which is on par with those who sleep around 7 hours per night.

After examining both sides of the argument, it appears that napping is a fairly neutral pastime. When the evidence is weighed up, the correlations between extra sleep and the proposed health benefits and/or detriments seem to be built on rather spurious connections, vastly influenced by external variables. Finally, a pleasure that can be enjoyed sans-guilt.

Tabitha Watson

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