Body of Evidence: Sleeping Beauty

Taking back the night—regular midday napping reduces long term health risks.

By Hara Estroff Marano, published on January 1, 2008 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Name: Johanna Teeri

Profession: Mother

Motherhood has a way of turning women into sleep connoisseurs, as it did for New Yorker Johanna Teeri, whose nights took a harder hit after the birth of her first child than they did after number two. "My body has adjusted now," she says. In addition, she's trained her baby to sleep through the night. Still, she savors a morning boost from both sugar and caffeine: "They help me get through the day." Lack of sleep brings susceptibility to depression and anxiety, she reports, as well as to an array of bugs brought home by little ones. Undeterred, Teeri is planning to start graduate school soon in international relations.

  • Yes ta Siesta

    Taking regular midday naps for at least 30 minutes reduces risk of cardiac death by 37 percent, researchers find in the first prospective study of siestas among healthy persons. The effect is strongest among workers. A shot of shut-eye seems to subdue stress. Other studies suggest that sleep deprivation impairs the heart's ability to adjust to the differing demands constantly made on it.

  • A Pain in the Dark

    Middle-of-the-night sleeplessness doesn't just make you tired and grumpy; it increases your vulnerability to pain. Fragmented sleep impairs natural pain-inhibitory mechanisms and brings on spontaneous pain. Health-care
    workers on call and parents of infants are at special risk.

  • Heavy Lids, Light Kids

    Young ones from ages 3 to 17 who sleep more weigh less and are less likely to be overweight five years later, say Northwestern University researchers
    who kept tabs on 2,281 kids. Sleeping one hour more a night cuts obesity risk by 20 percent.

  • If You Snooze, You Don't Lose

    Athletic performance gets a big boost from any extra sleep you can steal. Basketball players who added to their usual sleep time bettered their sprint times and their shooting percentages. They also reported more energy and brighter moods than before.

  • The Sleeping Class

    Middle-class kids are privileged when it comes to sleep. Compared to them, children of a lower socioeconomic class sleep less, have more trouble falling asleep, resist bedtime more, have more anxiety regarding sleep, awaken more often during the night, and have more sleep disorders. Result: They're sleepier during the day, which may compromise academic performance.


Archives of Internal Medicine and the SLEEP 2007 meeting; Child Development; SLEEP 2007