When You Nap Every Day, This Is What Happens To Your Heart

When the day ahead of us shows no signs of slowing down, a catnap can serve as a welcome break. Survey research conducted by the National Sleep Foundation in partnership with Sleep Cycle found that over 30% of adults partake in more than one nap on a weekly basis. The results showed respondents' average nap duration to be approximately one hour.

In addition to letting us escape reality for a little while, naps can boost energy levels, improve memory, and enhance our overall cognitive functioning. As if these mental benefits weren't enough, naps may also support our physical health in ways you might not have expected. This includes potentially bettering our cardiovascular health, according to 2019 research findings presented by the American College of Cardiology, which demonstrated that nodding off once a day may help lower our blood pressure levels. Blood pressure readings are able to tell us how much force our blood is exerting to flow freely throughout our arteries, explains the Cleveland Clinic. Having high blood pressure, however, can negatively impact our heart health and place one at risk for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and more.

Daily naps may lower blood pressure to the same degree as other healthy habits

Blood pressure readings are made up of two measurements: systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure (via Cleveland Clinic). Systolic blood pressure is the top number, and diastolic is the number below it. The total measurement will be read in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). A healthy blood pressure reading is one in which the systolic blood pressure is less than 120 and diastolic blood pressure is below 80.

The researchers noted that, on average, a daytime snooze yielded an average 5 mm Hg decrease in blood pressure — nearly the equivalent of what other healthy habits tend to produce. "Midday sleep appears to lower blood pressure levels at the same magnitude as other lifestyle changes," study co-author Dr. Manolis Kallistratos said via Science Daily. "For example, salt and alcohol reduction can bring blood pressure levels down by 3 to 5 mm Hg." The effects of a daytime nap on blood pressure also seem to closely rival the effects of certain low-dose blood-pressure treatment drugs, which tend to produce an average blood pressure decrease of 5 mm Hg to 7 mm Hg, Dr. Kallistratos stated.

Keep naps around one hour

Remember those Sleep Foundation survey respondents we mentioned earlier? They seem to have had the right idea in timing their naps at one hour. The research findings further showed an average 3 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure per hour of midday sleep over the course of a 24-hour period. While the study focused on participants who already had reasonably healthy blood pressure levels to begin with, the research team feels these benefits could potentially be extended to those with hypertension, although more research is still needed.

While nap-enthusiasts may be over the moon about this news, it's important to note that there are many factors that influence one's risk for hypertension. Such contributing factors include age, smoking, the use of certain medications, a lack of physical activity, or having high cholesterol, amongst other health conditions. Naps should also not be considered a treatment method for high blood pressure. Rather, keep up with regular check-ups where your doctor can measure your blood pressure annually and make specific lifestyle and/or medication recommendations.