Just a week to World Sleep Day, a day set aside to commemorate and discuss about sleep issues, researchers from the American College of Cardiology published a paper on the importance of power naps to the heart.
The scientists, who will present their paper at the American College of Cardiology's 68th Annual Scientific Session on March 18, discovered that people who take a nap at midday tend to have lower blood pressure and better cardiac health.
"Midday sleep appears to lower blood pressure levels at the same magnitude as other lifestyle changes. For example, salt and alcohol reduction can bring blood pressure levels down by 3 to 5 mm Hg," said Manolis Kallistratos, MD, cardiologist at the Asklepieion General Hospital in Voula, Greece, and one of the study's co-authors in an article by sciencedaily.com.
He said that the naps lower blood pressure on average by 5mm Hg, the same effect that a low dose hypertensive medication would have on a person suffering from high blood pressure.
He said that sleeping at midday lowered the risk of heart conditions such as heart attacks by 10 per cent.
The study included 212 people with a mean blood pressure of 129.9 mm Hg. They were 62 years old on average and slightly over half of the participants were female. About a quarter of the participants were smokers some of whom had Type 2 diabetes.
Researchers assessed and recorded blood pressure for 24 hours consecutively, midday sleep time (the average duration was 49 minutes), lifestyle habits (for example, alcohol, coffee and salt consumption, physical activity levels), and pulse wave velocity, a measure of stiffness in the arteries.
Participants wore blood pressure monitors to measure and track blood pressure at regular intervals during routine daily living.
It was found that those who napped during the day had on average 5.3 mm Hg lower blood pressure those who did not nap.
"We obviously don't want to encourage people to sleep for hours on end during the day, but on the other hand, they shouldn't feel guilty if they can take a short nap, given the potential health benefits," Dr Kallistratos said.
World Sleep Day was first celebrated on March 14, 2008. It is commemorated with a goal to celebrate the benefits of good and healthy sleep, to draw society's attention to the burden of sleep problems and their medical, educational, and social aspects, as well as to promote the prevention and management of sleep disorders.