Good snooze: siesta a day can keep heart attacks at bay
It is the news that nap afficionados have been waiting for. A midday snooze not only has the power to revive - it could reduce blood pressure and prevent a future heart attack too.
Research involving around 400 middle-aged men and women found that those who had a nap at noon had lower blood pressure later on than those who stayed awake through the day.
The findings, presented at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in London yesterday, showed blood pressure was lower both when awake and during their next night-time sleep.
The relatively small difference - of around 5pc - 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 10pc, 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. Those who took longer lunchtime naps, of up to an hour, achieved the best results, the study found.
Dr Manolis Kallistratos, the lead researcher, suggested modern lifestyles should borrow some habits from the past.
"Churchill said that we must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner while Thatcher didn't want to be disturbed at around 3pm," 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."
But the heart expert said most working people found it difficult to squeeze in a nap. "Midday sleep is a habit that nowadays is almost a privilege due to a nine-to-five working culture and intense daily routine," he said.
The study adjusted for other factors that could influence blood pressure, including age, gender, body mass index, smoking status, salt, alcohol, exercise and coffee drinking.
Dr Kallistratos said: "We also found that hypertensive patients who slept at noon were under fewer antihypertensive medications compared to those who didn't sleep at midday."
Another study has suggested that drinking four or more cups of coffee a day can increase the risk of heart attacks among those who already have high blood pressure.
A 12-year study of 18 to 45-year-olds with slightly raised but untreated blood pressure, found heavy coffee-drinking was associated with a fourfold rise in cardiac events, including heart attacks.
Dr Lucio Mos, a cardiologist in Udine, Italy, said: "Our study shows that coffee use is linearly associated with increased risk of cardio- vascular events in young adults with mild hyper- tension." ©Telegraph