How a Nap Can Lower Your Blood Pressure
Good news for those who like to cat nap – a new study suggests that taking a regular nap can lower your blood pressure. So if you have high blood pressure, it’s high time to get in the siesta habit.
Here’s the details. A recent study by researchers at a hospital in Athens, Greece looked at almost 400 middle-aged men and women who had high blood pressure, some of whom were in the habit of taking midday naps.
Those who had a nap around midday had lower blood pressure later in the day and also at night, when asleep, compared to those who didn’t have a nap at all.
Specifically, those who napped had blood pressure that was, on average, 4% lower than the non-nappers during the day; and 6% lower than the non-nappers when asleep at night. (This effect was found after adjusting for other health and lifestyle factors that might affect blood pressure, such as age, exercise, coffee intake, smoking.)
This makes an average of 5% lower blood pressure in those who regularly took a daily nap – not a huge amount but enough to definitely reduce your risk of a heart attack, according to the researchers. (All these percentages refer to systolic blood pressure – the pressure when your heart beats (compared to diastolic, the blood pressure between heart beats).)
Plus, other indicators of heart health were also better in the nappers.
A nap a day goes a long way to lower blood pressure
This is not the only study to find a link between daytime naps and better blood pressure and heart health. An older study which followed 23,000 Greeks found that those who took a daily nap were 37% less likely to die from a heart attack, compared to those who never napped. Even those who just took occasional naps were 12% less likely to die of a heart attack.
Other studies which have taken people into the lab have had similar results. For example, a study done by a college in Pennsylvania had students do a ‘stressful’ mental arithmetic task. Those who were allowed an hour’s nap afterwards subsequently had lower blood pressure, on average, than those who hadn’t napped.
Although the students didn’t suffer from high blood pressure, the results did support that daytime naps can lower blood pressure after some kind of stressful situation.
How long to nap to lower your blood pressure
It seems clear that taking a daytime nap, if you can, can benefit your blood pressure, and the health of your heart in general. But how long should you nap for?
In the Greek study, longer naps – of up to an hour – were associated with the biggest reductions in blood pressure.
Dr Kallistratos said: ‘Our study shows that not only is midday sleep associated with lower blood pressure, but longer sleeps are even more beneficial.”
“We found that midday sleep is associated with lower 24 hour blood pressure, an enhanced fall of blood pressure at night and less damage to the arteries and the heart. The longer the midday sleep, the lower the systolic blood pressure levels and probably fewer drugs [are] needed to lower blood pressure.”
And get a good night’s sleep
The Greek researchers do mention that it’s very difficult, for the average working person to be able to take a nap. And if you’re reading this article, in an English-speaking country, it’s likely you’re living in a place where siestas are not the norm!
However, if you really can’t fit in a daytime nap, then make sure you’re getting enough sleep at night. Some statistics suggest that people in Western societies are getting on average 2 hours less sleep a night than they did fifty years ago. And this is serious news because not getting enough sleep is associated with a higher risk of high blood pressure and heart problems.
Read more about sleep and blood pressure in our post here:
effects of sleep on blood pressure.
Conversely, if you have trouble getting enough sleep at night, all the more reason to nap in the daytime if you can because it seems to be able to make up for some of the negative effects on your blood pressure of lack of sleep.
A study done in the UK at John Moores University in Liverpool illustrated this. The researchers had 9 people come into the lab for several sessions, after only having had four hours sleep the night before. In different sessions, they would rest for an hour either lying down and sleeping, or lying down and staying awake, or standing up (awake!).
Their blood pressure went down only during the sessions when they slept, and actually went down just as they were beginning to fall asleep. Now, this study is not particularly representative of real-life high blood pressure sufferers as the volunteers (all nine of them) did not have high blood pressure. However, it does suggest that a nap can help compensate for not getting much sleep the night before.
If you need further convincing, keep in mind that napping also has other benefits for your mind and memory, and will generally improve your concentration for the rest of the day.
Napping Tips: How to nap to lower your blood pressure
- find a dark place, or wear an eye mask, and that’s quiet
- lie down if you can, rather than try to nap sitting up
- set an alarm if you’re concerned about waking up at a certain time so that you can drift off without worry – but allow yourself a good few minutes after your nap to wake up fully without rushing yourself
- clear your mind and allow yourself to properly switch off for a while (if you’re finding it hard to let go of all the things you feel you ‘should’ be doing, remind yourself that a nap now will make you more productive later…)
Being well-rested and other ways to lower blood pressure
Whether or not you can fit in a daily nap, generally being well-rested will go a long way to helping lower your blood pressure. Our guide to lowering your blood pressure naturally contains a lot of handy tips on how to sneak in more breaktimes, and ways to ensure you’re getting good quality sleep at night.
However, rest and relaxation is just one aspect of lowering high blood pressure. What you eat and drink and how active you are (and how you are active) are also crucial to healthy blood pressure.
This might sound daunting, especially if you’re just starting out on this route to better blood pressure but actually these changes can be incorporated quite easily into your everyday life.
The question is knowing what to do and figuring out how and when to do it. So to make it simple, we’ve put together a complete guide to lowering your blood pressure naturally:
The guide is laid out in 9 straightforward steps. You just follow the advice for each step – take it a week at a time or a month at a time, whatever suits you – and you’ll be on your way to lower blood pressure and better health in general.
Not only is the guide easy to follow but it’s also enjoyable to follow, with lots of tasty food and drink suggestions, and useful tips and insights on lifestyle changes. Little things that – put together – can make a big difference.
Lowering your blood pressure naturally doesn’t have to be hard!
To download a sample of the guide to your computer right now click here and scroll to the bottom of the page for the download link.
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Post by Alison.
Image credit: Trish Hamme via Flickr.com