ALONG with the food, the climate and the people, the siesta has to be one of the best things about living in Spain. But if your friends and family criticise you as being lazy for taking one of these daily mini-naps, you now have a very valid excuse to do so: they have been proven to reduce the risk of an irregular heartbeat.
That’s according to a study presented on Friday at the Cardiovascular Health Congress (SEC), an event organised by the Spanish Cardiology Society and that is being held in Malaga from October 26 to 28.
The research was carried out by the University of Navarre, in conjunction with doctors from hospitals in Huelva and Seville, and confirms previous studies that showed the health benefits from the briefest of naps.
More than 20,000 people took part in the study, which followed them for an average of nearly 14 years of their lives.
Of these participants, 29% said they never slept a siesta, 57% said they took a half-hour sleep at midday, and 14% said they slept for more than 30 minutes.
During the time the participants were monitored, a total of 131 cases of atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, were detected. This condition can lead to blood clots in the heart among sufferers.
The main researcher for the study, Jesus Diaz, told Spanish news agency EFE that the results showed that people who slept for a siesta no longer than 30 minutes were less likely to suffer atrial fibrillation compared to those who rested for more time in the afternoon.
The researchers also concluded that people who slept for between six and eight hours at nighttime were less likely to suffer the condition than those who rested for less time at night.
Previous studies had shown that sleep patterns can have an effect on the risk of an irregular heartbeat, according to EFE, but this was the first such piece of research to specifically look at siestas.