Taking a short nap in the afternoons lowers blood pressure, new research finds.
An afternoon nap is as powerful as reducing alcohol and salt and almost as good as taking medication.
Taking naps could reduce heart attack risk by 10 percent — possibly more if the naps are longer.
Around half of all Americans have high blood pressure (the figure is around 30 percent in the UK).
Many, however, are unaware since it typically has no symptoms.
The condition raises the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Dr Manolis Kallistratos, the study’s first author, said:
“Midday sleep appears to lower blood pressure levels at the same magnitude as other lifestyle changes.
For example, salt and alcohol reduction can bring blood pressure levels down by 3 to 5 mm Hg.”
The study included 212 people whose average age was 62.
People took an afternoon nap for an average of 49 minutes.
The results showed that taking a nap each day was linked to lowering blood pressure by an average of 5 mm/Hg.
Dr Kallistratos said:
“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.
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.”
In addition, the results showed that for each hour of napping blood pressure was reduced by 3 mm/Hg.
Dr Kallistratos said:
“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.
Even though both groups were receiving the same number of medications and blood pressure was well controlled, there was still a significant decrease in blood pressure among those who slept during midday.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session (Poulimenos et al., 2019).