I’ve always liked a good nap when I have time. That’s not to say I don’t feel guilty about laying down for a snooze mid-day, but I do it anyway. A 30 minute catnap seems to reenergize me for the rest of the day, Recently I heard that an afternoon siesta can provide other health benefits as well, especially for those who, like me, are aged 50Plus with high blood pressure.
Cardiovascular benefits of napping
According to a study by Greek researchers, a regular afternoon nap lowers blood pressure by almost as much as some drugs and other lifestyle changes. Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy and Margaret Thatcher were all big nappers…maybe they knew something we didn’t?
The study focused on the Mediterranean diet, which is well known to provide health benefits. This research project, the first to study the effects of daytime naps, set out to determine whether the health benefits were due to the siesta after lunch in addition to the healthy diet.
The 212 participants were all being successfully treated for hypertension, on similar medications and had similar levels of risk. They averaged 62 years in age. Only a little over half the subjects were already taking regular naps. After monitoring the participants for 24 hours, the researchers found blood pressure levels to be significantly lower for those who napped, similar to decreases seen when patients limit the sodium and alcohol in their diets. These findings are meaningful because a decrease in blood pressure as small as 2mm can lower the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular events by up to 10 percent.
“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 [millimeters of mercury (mmHg)],”said cardiologist Manolis Kallistratos, the study author.
The bottom line:
If you have the luxury to take an afternoon nap, do it. There is no cost involved, and the results of this study indicate you may lower your blood pressure as a result. More studies are needed to replicate the results, but adding a nap to your schedule certainly can’t hurt.