It's been a long week, but we're here with some great news for you: those beloved afternoon naps may actually be good for you!
According to new research, "midday sleep appears to lower blood pressure levels at the same magnitude as other lifestyle changes", says Dr Manolis Kallistratos, a cardiologist at Asklepieion General Hospital in Voula, Greece.
Researchers found that for each hour you nap, your systolic blood pressure drops an average of 3 mm Hg. Systolic pressure is the top number in your blood pressure readingm, and is the force of your blood pushing against your arteries when your heart beats. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure, the force between heart beats.
For comparison, taking a low-dose blood pressure drug can lower your level an average of 5 to 7 mm Hg, while a nap can reduce overall blood pressure an average of 5 mm Hg, the study authors said.
"These findings are important because a drop in blood pressure as small as 2 mm Hg can reduce the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack by up to 10 percent," Kallistratos said.
The study involved collecting data on 212 people, with the average age of 62, whose systolic pressure averaged about 130 mm Hg. Around a quarter of the participants smoked and/or had type 2 diabetes. The participants blood pressure over a day was compared between those who napped in the middle of the day for about 49 minutes and those who didn't. Factors such as consumption of alcohol, coffee and salt, the participants' physical activity levels, and their age, gender and medications were also taken into account.
All participants wore blood pressure monitors to track their readings during a normal 24-hour day. Overall, people who napped had more favorable readings (128.7 systolic/76.2 diastolic) than those who didn't (134.5 systolic/79.5 diastolic), the researchers reported.
"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," Kallistratos said.
High blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for heart attack and stroke, so you're really benefiting yourself with those cheeky naps, and reducing your risk!