Stifling a yawn every day around noon? Instead of reaching for the coffee, you might want to let yourself doze off if you can—new research shows it could be good for your heart.
In the study of 200 men and 186 women with arterial hypertension (high blood pressure in the arteries that go from the heart to the lungs), researchers found that midday nappers had a 5 percent lower average 24-hour ambulatory systolic blood pressure (monitoring of the blood pressure at regular intervals) compared to patients who did not sleep at all. The nappers' average readings were 4 percent lower when they were awake, and 6 percent lower when they were sleeping at night. They also took fewer blood pressure medications.
"Although the mean BP decrease seems low, it has to be mentioned that reductions as small as 2 mmHg in systolic blood pressure can reduce the risk of cardiovascular events by up to 10 percent,” Dr. Manolis Kallistratos, the cardiologist who presented the research at the European Society of Cardiology conference, said in a statement.
To calculate the results, the researchers took a variety of measurements, including the patients’ sleep time (in minutes), their office BP, their 24-hour ambulatory BP, pulse wave velocity (which measures arterial stiffness), lifestyle habits, body mass index, and an echocardiographic evaluation, which uses ultrasound waves to look at the actions of the heart. They then adjusted for other factors that could have influenced blood pressure, such as age, gender, smoking status, and alcohol use.
In addition to having a lower average blood pressure, the pulse wave velocity levels of midday nappers were 11 percent lower than those who didn't nap, and the diameter of the left atrium of the heart was 5 percent smaller—suggesting nappers have less damage from high blood pressure in their arteries and heart, according to Kallistratos.
And the length of the nap matters, too.
“The longer the midday sleep, the lower the systolic BP levels and probably fewer drugs needed to lower BP,” he said.
This isn’t the first time a power nap has been associated with a variety of benefits. Naps have been linked to sparking creativity, improving memory, reducing stress, and minimizing frustration. So sit back, relax, and catch a few Zzs—your heart (and mind) will thank you.