A snooze in the right direction: how napping can improve heart health
The clocks turned forward this past Sunday and while spring may be on the horizon, losing out on an hour of sleep may have left you craving a midday nap. You may be surprised to learn that according to new research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session, indulging in that afternoon nap could lower your blood pressure levels by the same amount as reducing your salt or alcohol intake.
This study included 212 people with reasonably well-controlled blood pressure, a mean age of 62 and similar risk factors for heart disease. Participants wore ambulatory blood pressure monitors to measure blood pressure at regular intervals throughout the day and also underwent echocardiograms and ultrasounds to ensure their hearts were structurally and functionally normal. Analysis adjusted for age, gender, lifestyle and medication between the napping and non-napping groups.
The average 24-hour systolic blood pressure was 5.3 mm Hg lower among participants who napped compared to those who didn’t, with an average nap length of 49 minutes. This is substantial considering that lowering blood pressure by as little as 2 mm Hg can reduce the risk of heart attack by up to 10%. For every hour spent napping, systolic blood pressure dropped by 3 mm Hg. While researchers don’t suggest people sleep excessively during the day, they believe that short naps could provide healthy benefits.
As of 2017, 17.8% of Canadians aged 12 and older self-reported as being diagnosed with high blood pressure. Due to the lack of symptoms, it is believed that many adults don’t know they have high blood pressure. So, if you find yourself reaching for your favourite blanket this Saturday afternoon, don’t feel guilty about grabbing a quick siesta in the name of heart health!