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Midday naps may lower blood pressure

A middle-aged man in a blue shirt and tan pants is napping in an outdoor chair with a white cover. An open book rests on his stomach.

April 11, 2019— Rather than dreaming of an afternoon nap, you may want to give in to your urge to nod off. If you have high blood pressure, it could be just what the doctor ordered, a new study suggests. It found that people who surrendered to a short midday snooze were more likely to experience a drop in blood pressure than those who stayed awake.

The study involved 212 people—average age 62—who wore a blood pressure monitor that recorded their pressure at different times throughout a 24-hour period. Researchers then compared the blood pressure of those who napped that day versus those who didn't.

Overall, nappers had an average systolic blood pressure reading more than 5 mm Hg lower than those who didn't get any ZZZs. That's similar to the drops seen when people take a low-dose blood pressure drug or make lifestyle changes that help bring blood pressure down, such as cutting back on salt. (Systolic pressure is the first number in a blood pressure reading.)

Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure, though many don't know it. Over time, it raises the risk of both a heart attack and stroke.

That raised risk makes the study's findings particularly important, the researchers said. Even a drop in blood pressure as small as 2 mm Hg can cut the risk of a cardiovascular event like a heart attack by up to 10 percent.

This doesn't mean you now have a green light to sleep for hours in the afternoon, the researchers said. The nappers in the study only snoozed for an average of 49 minutes. But you shouldn't feel guilty if you take a short nap, given its potential health benefits.

The researchers reported their findings at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology in New Orleans.

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