Taking the occasional nap in the middle of the day could be good for your heart, say researchers at the University Hospital of Lausanne in Switzerland.

Writing in the journal Heart, the experts investigated the links between napping and the risk of cardiovascular disease, analysing information on almost 3,500 people’s napping habits while evaluating their medical records.

What they found was that the people who took a nap once or twice a week for anything between five minutes to an hour were 48 per cent less likely to have a heart attack, stroke or experience heart failure compared with those who never napped.

The researchers can’t say exactly why napping has this effect, but they suggested it could have something to do with the fact that taking a nap may reduce stress.

If you have regular problems with sleeping it’s probably not a good idea to take a nap during the daytime, as it could make it more difficult for you to get to sleep at night. But if you want to give napping a try, here are some tips to help you nod off easily:

Plan your naps   If you nap at the same time every day it could help train your body to fall asleep quickly and wake up at the right time. The time of day for your nap could be important too. Many people experience an energy dip in the middle of the afternoon, so try taking a nap between 2 – 3pm. Try not to nap any later, or you may find it hard to fall asleep when you go to bed at night.

Switch off   Having a phone that never stops ringing isn’t going to help you nod off. If you don’t want to be disturbed, put your phone on silent. Also place it out of reach so you won’t be tempted to check your texts or emails when you should be relaxing.

Block out the light   The darker your environment, the more likely you’ll fall asleep faster. If you can’t find a dark enough room or corner, try wearing a sleep mask.

Mask nuisance noises   Ordinary daytime sounds can keep you awake. Try turning on a fan to mask them, or download an app that plays white, pink or brown noise such as NoiseZ (Apple) or White Noise Plus (Android).

Stay warm   Your body temperature naturally falls when you sleep, so make sure you have a blanket to keep yourself warm.

Keep it short   If you don’t have time for a longer nap, a shorter nap – even five minutes’ worth – could be just as effective.

Photo by Rafal Jedrzejek on Unsplash