LONDON, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Researchers found in a new study that taking a midday nap can be beneficial for lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk for cardiovascular events, which can also decrease the number of drugs required for hypertension.
Naps have largely been considered a luxurious habit for those with the time in their day, and were espoused by Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, however there had been little research to investigate their potential benefits.
"Our study shows that not only is midday sleep associated with lower blood pressure, but longer sleeps are even more beneficial," Dr. Manolis Kallistratos, a cardiologist at Asklepieion Voula General Hospital, said in a press release. "Midday sleepers had greater dips in blood pressure while sleeping at night, which is associated with better health outcomes. We also found that hypertensive patients who slept at noon were under fewer antihypertensive medications compared to those who didn't sleep midday."
The researchers studied the effect of naps on 200 men and 186 women with an average age of 61.4 who have arterial hypertension. Participants were monitored for midday sleep time in minutes, office blood pressure, 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure, pulse wave velocity, two lifestyle habits, body mass index and were given a complete echocardiographic evaluation.
The researchers adjusted for factors that can affect blood pressure, such as age, gender, BMI, smoking, exercise and consumption of salt, alcohol and coffee.
Participants who took naps had a 5 percent lower average 24-hour blood pressure -- their average systolic blood pressure was 4 percent lower when awake and 6 percent lower when they slept -- compared with those who went napless. In those who napped, the pulse wave velocity in their hearts was 11 percent lower and the diameter of their left ventricles were 5 percent smaller, both of which indicate less stress on their hearts from high blood pressure.
Researchers also found that although all those who took naps had lower 24-hour blood pressure and larger dips in blood pressure while sleeping at night, those who napped tended to need fewer antihypertensive drugs because of the benefits to their blood pressure and hearts.
"Μidday sleep is a habit that nowadays is almost a privileged due to a 9-to-5 working culture and intense daily routine," Kallistratos said, explaining that finding time for midday sleep is worth the effort. "We found that midday sleep is associated with lower 24-hour blood pressure, an enhanced fall of BP in night, and less damage to the arteries and the heart. The longer the midday sleep, the lower the systolic BP levels and probably fewer drugs needed to lower BP."