It is the news that nap afficionados have been waiting for.
A mid-day snooze doesn’t just have the power to revive – it could reduce blood pressure and prevent a future heart attack.
Research involving almost 400 middle-aged men and women found that those who had a nap at noon later had lower blood pressure than those who stayed awake through the day.
The findings, presented at the European Society of Cardiology annual conference in London, showed pressure was lower both when awake and later, during their night time sleep.
The small difference – of around 5 per cent – was enough to have a significant impact on rates of heart attack, researchers said.
Far smaller reductions have been found to reduce the chance of cardiovascular events by 10 per cent, the cardiologists said.
Researchers from Asklepieion Voula General Hospital in Athens, assessed 200 men and 186 women, with an average age of 61, and high blood pressure, some of whom took regular naps.
The study found that those who snoozed at noon had blood pressure measurements on average five per cent lower than those who did not nap.
Longer naps of up to an hour achieved the best results, the study found.
Dr Manolis Kallistratos, lead researcher, and cardiologist from the hospital, suggested modern lifestyles should borrow some habits form the past.
“Two influential UK Prime Ministers were supporters of the midday nap. Winston Churchill said that we must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner while Margaret Thatcher didn’t want to be disturbed at around 3:00 pm,” he said.
“According to our study they were right because midday naps seem to lower blood pressure levels and may probably also decrease the number of required antihypertensive medications.”
The heart expert said most working people found it difficult to squeeze in a nap.
“Μidday sleep is a habit that nowadays is almost a privileged due to a nine to five working culture and intense daily routine” he said.
The research found that overall, the average systolic blood pressure readings of the regular nappers were four per cent lower than the non-nappers when they were awake (5 mmHg) and 6 per cent lower while they slept at night (7 mmHg).
When hearts are healthy, blood pressure should drop at night.
The study found that those who achieved a significant drop in pressure when sleeping, had on average 17 minutes more mid-day sleep than those for whom findings remained constant.
Other measures of heart health were also superior among the group who had regular day time sleeps.
The nappers had pulse wave velocity levels” 11 per cent lower than those who stayed awake, while their left atrium diameters – which expand with age – were smaller in the napping group.
“These findings suggest that midday sleepers have less damage from high blood pressure in their arteries and heart,” said Dr Kallistratos.
The study adjusted for other factors that could influence blood pressure - such as age, gender, body mass index, smoking status, salt, alcohol, exercise and coffee drinking.
Dr Kallistratos said: “Our study shows that not only is midday sleep associated with lower blood pressure, but longer sleeps are even more beneficial.
“Midday sleepers had greater dips in blood pressure while sleeping at night which is associated with better health outcomes.
“We also found that hypertensive patients who slept at noon were under fewer antihypertensive medications compared to those who didn’t sleep midday.”
* Drinking four or more cups of coffee a day can increase the risk of heart attacks among those who already have high blood pressure, research suggests.
A 12 year study of men and women aged between 18 and 45 who had slightly raised but untreated blood pressure, found heavy coffee drinking was associated with a four-fold rise in cardiac events, including heart attacks.
Dr Lucio Mos, a cardiologist at hospital of San Daniele del Friuli in Udine, Italy, who led the study, said: “Our study shows that coffee use is linearly associated with increased risk of cardiovascular events in young adults with mild hypertension.”