Benefits of napping may include lowering blood pressure

benefits of napping

A new study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session suggests that midday naps could have more benefits than we think.

Almost 50% of American adults have high blood pressure. Although it typically has no symptoms, it can be quite dangerous as it increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke, especially with age.  Many lifestyle factors, such as limiting salt and alcohol consumption, can help decrease blood pressure and thereby decrease the risk of cardiovascular issues.

Many people enjoy taking midday naps to boost their energy levels and mood, and new research suggests that it might have positive effects on blood pressure as well.  A recent Greek study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session examines the benefits of napping on blood pressure.

A total of 212 male and female patients with an average age of 62 years and mean systolic blood pressure of 129.9mmHg participated in the study.  About 25% of the participants were cigarette smokers and/or had type 2 diabetes. Half the participants took midday naps with an average duration of 49 minutes, and the other half did not nap.

Researchers gave participants an ambulatory blood pressure monitor to measure the blood pressure of both groups multiple times over a 24-hour period.  Participants also had an echocardiogram test at the study recruitment and disclosed their lifestyle habits as well as their pulse wave velocity, which is a measure of arterial stiffness.  Both groups had similar lifestyle habits, pulse wave velocity, and echocardiogram tests.

Individuals who took midday naps had lower blood pressure overall

The group that took midday naps had, overall, an average 24-hour systolic blood pressure that was 5.3mmHg lower than the group that did not. There was also a direct negative relationship between nap duration and blood pressure, as an average 24-hour systolic blood pressure decreased by approximately 3mmHg for every hour of napping.  This is a remarkable difference, as lifestyle changes such as reducing salt and alcohol consumption bring down systolic blood pressure by 3 to 5mmHg.

These findings suggest that the benefits of napping may extend further than just boosting mood and energy levels. The study provides evidence that suggests midday naps may help decrease blood pressure.  However, more research is needed to determine if this effect is causal, and further benefits of napping on cardiovascular health should be explored.  Although these results are not intended to encourage people to take excessively long naps throughout the day, they assure that taking a nap to increase energy is not a bad thing.

Written by Avery Bisbee, BSc Candidate

Reference: Poulimenos, L., Kallistratos, M., Tsinivizov, P., Kouremenos, N., Kontogiannis, N., Pittaras, A., . . . Manolis, A. (2019). Mid-Day Sleep Effects as Potent as Recommended Lifestyle Changes in Patients with Arterial Hypertension [Abstract]. Journal of the American College of Cardiology,73(9), 20-20. Retrieved March 25, 2019.