Dr Michael Mosley: The simple activity that can lower your risk of a heart attack by 48%

What's the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest?

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“Like many people, I suffer from the dreaded mid-afternoon slump,” the podcast host confessed. “One reason for that is our body’s natural circadian rhythms tend towards to dip in energy levels in the afternoon.” But instead of reaching for a cup of coffee, he recommended napping.

Dr Mosley said: “Not only can napping boost our mood and wellbeing but large studies have even shown a link between regular napping and heart health. 

“An afternoon nap can sometimes have greater benefits than just getting a longer night’s sleep.”

From boosting memory to lowering your heart attack risk, there’s more to dozing off in the middle of the day than regaining much-needed energy.

Plus, this practice was popular with many famous figures as well. The doctor said: “Winston Churchill regularly recharged himself with an afternoon nap. 

“Writing in his memoirs, that even if it only lasts 20 minutes, it is sufficient to renew all the vital forces. 

“He was clearly onto something because recent research suggests that a nap can do wonderful things for your mind and your body.

“For starters taking an afternoon nap even just once or twice a week seems to be good for the heart.”

The doctor shared that a recent study of more than 3,400 people between the ages of 35 and 75 could cut a heart attack risk.

Their findings suggested that daytime nap was linked to a 48 percent lower chance of heart attack, stroke and heart failure.

“A pill that could do that would make a fortune,” Dr Mosley noted.

To really get to the root of napping benefit, the podcaster invited Dr Sara Mednick, sleep researcher, to join the episode.

She explained that sleep is really potent when it comes to your heart because it’s like a “cardiovascular holiday”.

Dr Mednick said: “It is the one time in the 24 hours for your entire system to just calm down.

“There’s two different branches to the autonomic nervous system.

“During the day you have this dominance of the sympathetic system, which is what we call the fight or flight over your thinking and your mind and your body. 

“And at night you have a natural dominance of the parasympathetic system – it’s a chance for your body to recuperate its resources to recover from the stress of the day.”

Now that the doctors established the plentiful benefits of napping, the last question remains – how long should you nap for?

Dr Mednick advised: “There is actually research on the minimum side, so it looks like more than five minutes is a helpful nap. 

“The safest bet is the power nap – the 20-minute nap – because you go into stage two sleep and stage two sleep lasts for about half an hour.”

For comparison, getting 90 minutes equals one full sleep cycle called REM sleep. “In some cases, we’ve seen the exact same benefits of a full night of sleep and a 90-minute nap,” she noted.

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