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It is estimated that nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure. Although many may not know it as it is often symptomless, the condition exerts great strain on the heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of both heart attack and stroke.
Now, new research is revealing that midday naps may actually be a deterrent to high blood pressure. The findings reveal that people who indulge in daytime naps have a drop in blood pressure.
"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," said Manolis Kallistratos, MD, cardiologist at the Asklepieion General Hospital in Voula, Greece, and one of the study's co-authors.
The study found that a daytime nap was associated with an average 5 mm Hg drop in blood pressure and that for every 60 minutes of midday sleep, 24-hour average systolic blood pressure lowered by 3 mm Hg.
"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," Kallistratos explained.
"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."
A study of 212 people
The study followed 212 people with a mean blood pressure of 129.9 mm Hg and assessed and recorded their blood pressure for 24 hours. They also took into consideration lifestyle habits and pulse wave velocity.
When analyzing the results, the researchers adjusted for factors known to influence blood pressure such as age, gender, and medications. What they found was that for each hour of napping, the average 24-hour systolic blood pressure decreased by 3 mm Hg.
"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.
"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."
More research is still needed to validate these findings. However, Kallistratos will be presenting the current study, "Mid-day Sleep Effects as Potent as Recommended Lifestyle Changes in Patients With Arterial Hypertension," on Monday, March 18 at the American College of Cardiology's 68th Annual Scientific Session.