Can a Nap a Day Keep Blood Pressure at Bay?
Catching a quick nap midday may be a simple, no-cost way to lower your blood pressure, according to researchers from the Asklepieion General Hospital in Voula, Greece.1
The research, presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session, suggests midday sleep could be as effective at slashing blood pressure levels as other lifestyle interventions, like reducing alcohol intake or taking low-dose blood pressure medication.
It’s unclear whether the results vary depending on whether a person is sleep-deprived or typically gets a good night’s sleep, but it could be that a nap may be particularly useful for people lacking in high-quality sleep.
High blood pressure affects more than 1.13 billion people worldwide,2 including 1 in 3 U.S. adults. Another 1 in 3 have prehypertension, but many are unaware that their health is at risk from this “silent killer.”3
Fortunately, beyond napping there are other powerful strategies to lower your blood pressure as well, such as improving nitric oxide levels, which I’ll discuss later. But first, it does appear that for some people a nap a day may help keep high blood pressure away.
Napping May Lower Your Blood Pressure Levels
The study followed more than 200 people with high blood pressure, monitoring their blood pressure levels, midday sleep time, lifestyle habits and pulse wave velocity, which is a measure of arterial stiffness.
Those who napped had an average systolic 24-hour blood pressure reading that was 5.3 mm Hg lower than those who did not, while both blood pressure numbers were also more favorable among nappers compared to non-nappers. It appeared that, for each hour of napping, 24-hour systolic blood pressure was lowered 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,” Dr. Manolis Kallistratos told the American College of Cardiology (ACC). “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.”4
The study may be a good representation of napping benefits, as those included in the study had well-controlled blood pressure. Whereas those with high, uncontrolled blood pressure levels may have more pronounced drops from interventions, by using a group with controlled levels “we can feel more confident that any significant differences in blood pressure readings are likely due to napping,” Kallistratos said.5
The study also monitored the natural dips in blood pressure that occur during sleep, finding that the natural drops were similar across the participants. This suggests the reductions noted in the study could be due to the napping intervention. Kallistratos told ACC:6