Here's some news that nap enthusiasts definitely won't get tired of. It turns out that a daily snooze is associated with reduced blood pressure and, even more significantly, may decrease the risk of a heart attack or other cardiovascular events.
The results were presented at the European Society of Cardiology annual conference in London. The observational study examined nearly 400 middle-aged men and women with hypertension, a condition where blood pressure is constantly abnormally high.
The study showed that midday sleepers had a 5% lower average 24-hour ambulatory systolic blood pressure compared to patients who did not nap at midday. Even though this might seem like a minor difference, the lead researcher Dr Manolis Kallistratos said at the conference that even this small decrease "can reduce the risk of cardiovascular events by up to 10%." So a tiny drop is still of great significance.
Even better for the siesta snoozers, the study showed that a longer sleep was associated with a higher drop in blood pressure. One hour was found to be the time needed for the best results.
Kallistratos noted that there were a few limitations in the study that would be worth addressing for future research in the field. For starters, the study was only observational. It has to be assumed that it is the midday nap that is producing the positive effects in the patients, and not some other uncontrolled variable. Kallistratos is confident that this is the case since the blood pressure drop pattern seen at midday is similar to the drop people experience when they sleep at night.
The second is that the hypertension symptoms in the study participants were very well controlled, but that might not be the case for everyone. So in future it could be worthwhile including participants whose hypertension was not so well-controlled, as Kallistratos thinks they could experience an even more significant blood pressure drop with a daytime doze.
It must also be noted that a nap is superior to just resting. Kallistratos commented that the biggest drop in blood pressure kicked in just before the REM phase, which suggests actual sleep is required to lower blood pressure to the levels observed.
“Μidday sleep is a habit that nowadays is almost a privilege due to a nine to five working culture and intense daily routine,” said Kallistratos. However, given the potential benefits, making time for a midday nap might be an idea to sleep on.