Another reason to embrace the nap

Another reason to embrace the nap
CC BY 2.0 anoldent/flickr

A new study finds that a nap a day could save your life.

A nap at noon may prove challenging for those in an office from 9 to 5, but for those with a flexible schedule or who live in cultures that cater to the siesta, an added health benefit may be theirs for the taking.

According to new research, midday naps are associated with reduced blood pressure levels and prescription of fewer antihypertensive medications. Any remedy that leads to fewer prescriptions is a good thing ... especially when it's a nap, an activity (of sorts) that has so many other benefits as well.

"Although William Blake affirms that it is better to think in the morning, act at noon, eat in the evening and sleep at night, noon sleep seems to have beneficial effects," said Dr Manolis Kallistratos, a cardiologist at Asklepieion Voula General Hospital in Athens, Greece and author of the study.

"Two influential UK Prime Ministers were supporters of the midday nap. Winston Churchill said that we must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner while Margaret Thatcher didn't want to be disturbed at around 3:00 pm.," he added. "According to our study they were right because midday naps seem to lower blood pressure levels and may probably also decrease the number of required antihypertensive medications."

The aim of the study was to find out if midday sleep affected blood pressure (BP) levels in subjects with hypertension. The research was based on 200 men and 186 women with arterial hypertension; the average age was 61.4 years.

After adjusting for other factors that could influence BP – like age, gender, BMI, smoking status, salt, alcohol, exercise and coffee – the researchers found that midday sleepers had 5 percent lower average 24-hour ambulatory systolic BP (6 mmHg) compared to patients who did not sleep at all midday. Their average systolic BP readings were 4 percent lower when they were awake (5 mmHg) and 6 percent lower while they slept at night (7 mmHg) than non-midday sleepers.

While those numbers might seem like just blips, they are significant.

"Although the mean BP decrease seems low, it has to be mentioned that reductions as small as 2 mmHg in systolic blood pressure can reduce the risk of cardiovascular events by up to 10 percent,” Kallistratos says.

The researchers also found other levels were lower as well, suggesting that nappers have less damage from high blood pressure in their arteries and heart.

"Our study shows that not only is midday sleep associated with lower blood pressure, but longer sleeps are even more beneficial. Midday sleepers had greater dips in blood pressure while sleeping at night which is associated with better health outcomes," Kallistratos said. "We also found that hypertensive patients who slept at noon were under fewer antihypertensive medications compared to those who didn't sleep midday."

And on that note, it’s time for a nap.

The study was presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress.

Tags: Diseases | Health

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