Want a daytime pick-me-up that may also benefit your blood pressure? Take a nap, researchers suggest.
"Midday sleep appears to lower blood pressure levels at the same magnitude as other lifestyle changes," said Dr Manolis Kallistratos, a cardiologist at Asklepieion General Hospital in Voula, Greece.
For each hour you nap, systolic blood pressure drops an average of 3 mm Hg, the researchers found. Systolic pressure - the top number in a blood pressure reading - is the force of your blood pushing against your arteries when your heart beats. Diastolic pressure - the bottom number - is the force between heart beats.
Taking a low-dose blood pressure drug, for example, can lower your level an average of 5 to 7 mm Hg, while a nap can reduce overall blood pressure an average of 5 mm Hg, the study authors 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%," Kallistratos said.
For the study, the investigators collected data on 212 people, average age 62, whose systolic pressure averaged about 130 mm Hg. About one-quarter of the participants smoked and/or had type 2 diabetes.
The researchers compared blood pressure over a day among those who napped in the middle of the day for about 49 minutes with those who didn't. The study also took into account factors such as consumption of alcohol, coffee and salt, the participants' physical activity levels, and their age, gender and medications.
Benefits of a short nap
The study participants wore blood pressure monitors to track their readings during a normal 24-hour day. Over that period, those who napped had an average systolic blood pressure more than 5 mm Hg lower than those who didn't nap, the findings showed.
Overall, people who napped had more favourable readings (128.7 systolic/76.2 diastolic) than those who didn't (134.5 systolic/79.5 diastolic), the researchers reported.
"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," Kallistratos said in an American College of Cardiology (ACC) news release.
High blood pressure affects nearly half of American adults, though many don't know they have it. High blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
The study findings are scheduled to be presented at the ACC's annual meeting, in New Orleans. Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
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