PhotoKeeping blood pressure within healthy levels can feel like a balancing act for many consumers. Now, researchers have found that one method might be to get some extra sleep. The team found that taking a midday nap was effective in lowering blood pressure.

“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,” said Dr. Manolis Kallistratos. “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 doesn’t cost anything.”

Power of a nap

To see how napping would affect blood pressure, the researchers divided over 200 participants with an average blood pressure of nearly 130 mm Hg into two groups: napping and non-napping.

All participants received an echocardiogram at the start of the study and wore blood pressure monitors throughout the day to measure blood pressure during regular day-to-day activities. The researchers accounted for age, medications, gender, and lifestyle -- including eating habits and coffee and alcohol intake.

For those in the napping group, sleeping periods typically lasted for less than an hour. However, the researchers noted several benefits, including overall improved blood pressure readings.

According to the findings, blood pressure was over 5 mm Hg lower for those who napped compared with those who didn’t -- and the longer the nap, the better the results. For each hour the participant slept, his/her blood pressure dropped by 3 mm Hg.

While many consumers don’t have the time to nap extensively during the day, even a short nap could have some benefits.

“We obviously don’t want to encourage people to nap 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. 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 midday.”

Leading with sleep

This isn’t the only study of late to tout sleep as the answer to improved health. Recently, researchers found that short bouts of sleep could be effective in helping consumers make important decisions.

The study concluded that sleep positively impacts problem-solving abilities, which the researchers credit to the brain’s ability to process information better following periods of rest.

On the flip side, not getting enough sleep can have repercussions, both big and small. This proves how imperative sleep is to our overall functioning and well-being.

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