A new study has shown that taking an afternoon nap could be as effective at lowering blood pressure as taking anti-hypertensive medication.
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Study investigator Manolis Kallistratos (Asklepieion General Hospital in Greece) and colleagues found that people who took a midday siesta were more likely to experience a fall in blood pressure than people who did not take an afternoon nap.
The afternoon snooze was found to lower blood pressure to a similar extent as taking a tablet for high blood pressure.
The findings are due to be presented at the upcoming American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session in New Orleans later this month.
High blood pressure, which affects almost half of the American adult population, is one of the primary risk factors for heart attacks and strokes. The condition is considered a “silent killer” because people often do not know they have it until it is too late.
Kallistratos and team analysed data available for 212 people (aged an average of 62 years) with a systolic blood pressure averaging around 130 mm Hg. According to American Heart Association guidance, a healthy systolic blood pressure would be 120 mm Hg or less.
The researchers compared blood pressure readings taken over the course of a day between people who slept in the afternoon and those who did not. The study adjusted for factors such as alcohol, coffee and salt intake, as well as age, gender, medication use and physical activity levels.
The team reports that people who took a 49-minute nap in the afternoon had a systolic blood pressure that was an average of 5mm/Hg lower than those who did not take a nap. Researchers say this reduction is similar to what can be expected after taking a low-dose blood pressure pill.
These findings are important because a fall 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.”
Manolis Kallistratos, Senior Author
Commenting on how vital sleep is for wellbeing, he adds that “napping can be easily adopted and typically doesn’t cost anything.”
However, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, says that although getting enough sleep is important, evidence shows that healthy lifestyle changes such as reducing salt and alcohol intake, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight are the best ways to keep blood pressure low.
As tempting as it might sound to swap all of these measures for a daily siesta, making healthy lifestyle choices remains the key to preventing heart attacks and strokes, along with taking medication where recommended.”
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, British Heart Foundation
A Nap a Day Keeps High Blood Pressure at Bay. The American College of Cardiology Press Release. 7th March 2019.