It’s a warm Sunday afternoon and you’ve just had a big lunch and a long walk. Now what? Recent research suggests that you should probably head over to the hammock or sofa and take a nap; it could help reduce blood pressure and prevent heart attack. Although most people don’t need a reason to take a nap, science has now provided us with heart health incentives to catch some mid-day Z’s.
A research team from Asklepieion Voula General Hospital in Athens studied 186 women and 200 men (averaging at 61 years of age) with high blood pressure – some of whom were regular nap takers. The results uncovered that the people who took a mid-day nap had a five percent decrease in blood pressure measurements when compared to the participants who didn’t take a snooze. Naps that lasted up to an hour (longer naps) showed attained the best results.
The results were even successful when the participants weren’t napping. Blood pressure decreased four percent while awake and 6 percent while sleeping at night for those who napped. They also found that napping could improve other heart conditions, such as hypertension.
The researchers suggest that making time for a mid-day snooze could help your overall health and therefore, actually improve your productivity. Just be sure you are taking the right kind of nap.
Types of naps
There are actually three different kinds of naps: planned, emergency and habitual. As mentioned above, the longer naps that last up to an hour, have the most benefit for your heart health. Here are the different types of nap:
Planned naps: This style of napping is done prior to being sleepy. Planned napping is useful if you know you need to stay up later than normal or prevent yourself from sleeping earlier than routine. This type of nap can last up to an hour for maximum benefits.
Emergency naps: This type of napping occurs suddenly when you can no longer complete an activity due to immense tiredness. Due to being overtired, you have no control over this nap and therefore, its heart benefits are minimal. However, shorter naps have been proven to aid memory and boost energy, so even a cat nap has an upside.
Habitual nap: This type of napping occurs every day at the same time. This is commonly seen in children. However, if you are lucky, you could also schedule a daily snooze at the same time each day to create a sleep routine that helps you decrease your blood pressure.
As you can see, most naps are beneficial in some way.
Benefits of napping
Depending on what health issues you have or what aspects of your health you are trying to improve, the benefits of napping come in a shapes and sizes.
- Restores alertness, and in some cases extends alertness later in the day
- Enhances performance, makes daily tasks easier
- Reduces mistakes and accidents, also helps with coordination
- Scheduled naps can help with narcolepsy
- Psychological benefits – reduces stress and rejuvenates a tired mind and body
- Boosts memory and concentration
- Aids in healing
- Reduces irritability and frustration
Although naps are beneficial to your health, there are a few general guidelines to follow.
Do’s and don’ts of napping
DON’T substitute sleep with naps – the body always needs a good night’s sleep to stay healthy
DO nap in the afternoon – making sure you are not too close to morning wake-up and nighttime sleep
DON’T be unprepared – be sure to have earplugs, an eye mask and set an alarm
DO create a restful environment – this will help to maximize nap benefits
DON’T over nap – sleeping too long could disrupt your nighttime sleeping habits
Effects of different nap times on the body
As mentioned above, napping too long or not long enough can have negative health repercussions. If you’re going to nap, do it right:
10 – 20 minutes – if you want to quickly boost alertness and energy
30 minutes – has minimal benefits, so try to avoid it or you’ll be left feeling groggy
60 minutes – the perfect amount if you want to help reduce blood pressure and improve memory and recollection
60 – 90 minutes –napping too long can make you sluggish, disoriented and disturb your nighttime sleep
90 minutes – this is another sweet spot for napping because it is a full cycle of sleep so emotional and procedural memory improves
Napping can help improve heart health and reduce blood pressure; however, there are many other methods that are beneficial to your health.
10 other ways to control blood pressure and maintain heart health
Your lifestyle choices have a large impact on your health. If you are serious about reducing your blood pressure and maintaining a healthy heart, here are a few changes to make in your daily life to help improve your health.
- Watch your weight – blood pressure often grows as weight increases
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet – reduce your sodium, alcohol and caffeine intake and limit your calories. Be sure to include whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
- Exercise regularly – this will help avoid weight gain and hypertension and can boost your mood
- Quit smoking – smoking increases blood pressure as well as the risks of heart disease
- Reduce stress – stress contributes to heart disease and can cause heart attack and is one of the biggest contributors to high blood pressure
- Monitor blood pressure and cholesterol – take responsibility for your own health
- Know your risks – Family history, eating habits and lifestyle can all contribute to a higher risk for poor heart health
- Choose the correct pills/supplements – although natural treatments are preferred, always speak with your doctor about the correct medication and ask about side effects
- Get support – either from your friends and family or a local community group, having others involved can help inspire better health choices
- Stay informed – there is always more to learn when it comes to our health
Although this new study is great news for people who love to nap, be sure you are getting the right amount of sleep at the right time of day to maximize the benefits of snoozing. Unfortunately, with today’s nine to five work schedule, weekday naps can be tricky. Now, how can we convince the boss to let us hang a hammock in the office breakroom?