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Naps For Better Blood Pressure?

If you’re searching for lifestyle changes to help lower your blood pressure, one effective strategy may be an old-fashioned siesta. New research from Greece found that systolic blood pressure (the top number) in people who took a midday nap averaged 5 percent lower than that of patients who didn’t nap. The researchers enrolled 200 men and 186 women with hypertension to assess the effect of a daily nap on blood pressure readings. The average age of the patients was 61.4 years. The researchers tested the patients’ blood pressure in the office and by utilizing 24-hour ambulatory measurements and assessed their cardiovascular health. They also recorded the amount of napping time the patients reported. After adjusting for other factors that could affect blood pressure – among them age, gender, body mass index, smoking status, salt, alcohol and coffee consumption and exercise – they found that blood pressure was lower among those who took a daytime nap, and that these patients needed fewer drugs to control their blood pressure than those who didn’t nap. Study leader Manolis Kallistratos, a cardiologist, noted that although the blood pressure reductions seen in the study do not seem dramatic, decreases as small as 2 millimeters of mercury in systolic blood pressure can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 10 percent.

My take: I’m a big fan of napping. I used to worry about the time it took to nap, and I would fight off the impulse when I had work to do, but I've since learned that people who nap generally enjoy better mental health and mental efficiency than people who don't nap. They may also sleep better at night. Now, if I feel the need to nap and have the opportunity, I just take one, and usually wake up after 10 or 20 minutes feeling refreshed. The National Sleep Foundation reports that dozing off for 20 to 30 minutes is the ideal amount of time to sharpen your alertness. Other sleep experts have suggested that an hour-long nap can help your memory for facts, places and faces, and a 90-minute nap has been found to boost creativity. If the newly reported effects of napping on blood pressure are confirmed in future studies, there will be even more reason to take a daily nap. 

Getting Better Rest, Part 2

Our last tip covered four ways to promote better rest and sleep, which are vital for overall, optimal health. Get five more simple suggestions here!

Rest is as important as physical activity for general health. Identify periods during the day when you can be without stimulation, doing nothing, and make time for them. Consider the following when planning rest into your schedule:

  1. To minimize early waking, try to postpone the evening meal until after dusk.
  2. If your mind is too active when you get into bed, you will not be able to fall asleep - no matter how tired you are. Learn and practice one or more relaxation techniques that can help you disengage from thoughts.
  3. Consider natural sleep aids. Valerian and melatonin are both effective remedies for occasional insomnia.
  4. Determine how much sleep is optimal for you. People vary in their need for sleep, from as few as four hours a night to as many as 10. Most require seven to eight hours, but ideal amounts can change over time, and may vary from day to day. You can adjust your bedtime and see how you feel after sleeping for various amounts of time, or simply note how much you slept on days when you feel rested and productive.
  5. If you do wake early, try to use the time productively. Read or write for an hour, then try to go back to sleep until morning. Think of the yin-yang symbol, which symbolizes harmony with a small dot of white on a black background and vice versa. Seen from this perspective, a period of nighttime wakefulness complements your daytime nap.