Why not catch some midday z’s? According to new research study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session on March 18, taking a nap may do more than reenergizing and improving your mood, it may also result in a noticeable drop in your blood pressure when compared with those who don’t take naps.
The benefits of napping were similar to what would be expected from things like lifestyle changes and medication. “For example, salt and alcohol reduction can bring blood pressure levels down by 3–5 mm Hg,” said Manolis Kallistratos, MD, a cardiologist at the Asklepieion General Hospital in Voula, Greece, and one of the study’s co-authors. He added that a low-dose of antihypertensive medication usually lowers blood pressure levels by 5–7 mmHg, on average. In this study, taking a nap during the day was associated with an average 5 mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure.
“These findings are important because a drop-in blood pressure as small as 2 mm Hg can reduce the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack by up to 10 percent,” said Kallistratos, in his study, “Mid-day Sleep Effects as Potent as Recommended Lifestyle Changes in Patients with Arterial Hypertension.”
Day-Time Napping a Cheap Way to Lower Blood Pressure
“Based on our findings, if someone has the luxury to take a nap during the day, it may also have benefits for high blood pressure. Napping can be easily adopted and typically doesn’t cost anything,” notes Kallistratos.
“We obviously don’t want to encourage people to sleep for hours on end during the day, but on the other hand, they shouldn’t feel guilty if they can take a short nap, given the potential health benefits,” said Kallistratos.
According to the study’s researchers, this is the first study to prospectively assess midday sleep’s affect on blood pressure levels among people whose blood pressure is reasonably controlled. The same research team had previously found taking a midday naps is associated with reduced blood pressure levels and fewer antihypertensive medications being prescribed to those with very high blood pressure readings.
In total, the study included 212 adults whose blood pressure was “moderately” controlled. They were assigned to two different groups—one that napped during the day and one that did not. Participants wore a blood pressure monitor for 24 hours during the study to monitor changes in blood pressure.
Participants were 62 years old on average and just over half were female. Researchers found that nappers had significantly lower average blood pressure over the 24-hour period than those that did not nap. For each hour of napping, the average systolic blood pressure lowered by 3 mmHg.
“The higher the blood pressure levels, the more pronounced any effort to lower it will appear. By including people with relatively well-controlled blood pressure, we can feel more confident that any significant differences in blood pressure readings are likely due to napping,” adds Kallistratos.
Although it falls outside the scope of this study, the researchers say one could speculate that along with the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet endemic to this region, the cultural acceptance of midday napping may also play a role in the healthier profile seen in these populations
Even with the promising research findings, Kallistratos says that naps shouldn’t replace established therapies like a healthy diet and blood pressure medication.