Nodding off during the day, when it’s planned, is one of the best ways to restart your afternoon. You awake, uncurl and stretch contentedly with new energy, alertness and drive. But when you doze off accidentally, the end result is not quite the same. You are groggy, unsure of how much time has elapsed and disoriented, perhaps momentarily unaware of your location. The television program you’d been watching has been replaced by another, the book you’d been reading is lying haphazardly on the floor, or the cars behind you are impatiently sounding their horns. You shake your head trying to clear the fog, but it is slow in dissipating. And for that reason, you hate the unplanned naps – as well you should but not just because of that.
Unintentional daytime dozing increases the risk of stroke. A study of more than 2,000 New Yorkers found that those who occasionally nodded off throughout the day had a 2.6 times greater chance of having a stroke. Those who did so regularly were at a 4.5 times greater risk. The reasons for these increases were unclear, but researchers believe that either sleep apnea, which often results in extreme daytime drowsiness, or sleep deprivation is to blame. Whatever the cause, the one certainty is that unplanned naps are a sign of danger.
If you can’t seem to stay awake during your daily dose of Jeopardy or an extended red light almost always sends you straight to dreamland, you may want to consult your doctor to find out why. If it’s because you aren’t sleeping or because you have sleep apnea, steps can be taken to rectify both. Then, once your nights are filled with healthy Zs, your days won’t be filled with unhealthy ones, and your risk of stroke will have been, at least somewhat, lessened.
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