Good news for those who like a midday snooze; a nap may help to lower blood pressure.

Researchers at the Asklepieion General Hospital in Voula, Greece, carried out a study, which looked at 212 participants with an average age of 62 and an average blood pressure of 129.9 mmHg.

The researchers assessed and recorded blood pressure for 24 hours consecutively, as well as midday sleep time, lifestyle habits such as alcohol, coffee and salt consumption, physical activity levels, and pulse wave velocity, which is a measure of stiffness in the arteries.

They also asked the participants to complete an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart that shows its structure and function.

The findings, due to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session, showed that overall, taking a daytime nap was associated with an average five mmHg drop in blood pressure, which the researchers say is in line with the drop expected from other known blood pressure-lowering interventions.

The average duration of the nap was 49 minutes, with the team also finding that there appeared to be a direct linear relationship between time spent napping and blood pressure.

For every 60 minutes of midday sleep, the 24-hour average systolic blood pressure decreased by three mmHg.

“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 three to five mmHg,” explained study co-author Dr Manolis Kallistratos, adding that taking a low-dose antihypertensive medication usually lowers blood pressure levels by five to seven mmHg on average.

“These findings are important because a drop in blood pressure as small as two mmHg can reduce the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack by up to 10%,” he said.

“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.

“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.” – AFP Relaxnews