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Study Suggests Naps Could Be Hazardous To Your Health

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A lot of us take a nap during the day and feel better afterward, but could those naps be bad – or even kill us?

As CBS 2's Dr. Max Gomez reported, a new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology said regular daytime napping may actually be detrimental to your health.

Back in the good old days, we were all supposed to nap. Toddlers didn't always like it, but parents loved the break.

But once those toddlers grow to become high school and college students, naps are likely to become their favorite pastime. And that often goes for full-grown adults too.

"I love them," said Hilaire Dolfeyn. "I've just had a nap in Central Park."

"I think it's great – it's very refreshing, as long as it's not too long," said Zoya Kocur.

And even sleep experts agree that naps are probably good for you.

"Sleep is good; we all need it," said Dr. Steven Feinsilver, director of the Sleep Center at Mount Sinai Medical Center. "And if that's the best way to get more of it, it's OK."

But the new study said regular daytime napping may actually be bad. Researchers followed 16,374 volunteers in Britain, where napping is uncommon.

After 13 years, they found that those who reported napping less than an hour a day had a 14 percent increased risk of dying. And if they reported napping for more than an hour, the risk went up by 32 percent.

But experts pointed out that while those risks sound large, they are not great. The real question is why people take naps.

"There's a reason they need to nap, perhaps, which includes many of the major sleep diseases," Feinsilver said. "The main reason to be sleepy is sleep apnea, and we know that sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of cardiac disease, stroke, and death."

In other words, it is not the nap itself that is bad, but the fact that daytime sleepiness may be a sign of an underlying disease or problem that leads to premature death.

Meanwhile, other studies have shown that naps are actually healthy.

The bottom line is that most of us need an average of a little more than seven hours of sleep a day. And experts said if we can't get all of it at night, it is probably fine to get some of it with a daytime nap.

Sleep experts also said night shift workers probably benefit the most from naps, because they often find it hard to sleep straight through for seven or eight hours.

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