Here’s a new finding on how to lower your blood pressure, boost your immune system and lower stress.
The best part: it doesn’t involve a treadmill, step machine or even any exercise at all. Nor is it a flavourless, meatless diet or any other strange food regimen.
Blood pressure – sleep it off
Researchers at the Sorbonne University in Paris conducted sleep tests on 11 healthy men between the ages of 25 and 32. They found that napping can be an effective antidote against increased stress levels and suppressed immune system activity associated with a lack of sleep, by creating measurable hormone changes.
In a laboratory setting with controlled lighting and meals, the participants were given two sessions of sleep testing. In the first session, the men were only allowed to sleep for two hours in one night. After taking urine and saliva samples from the participants, the researchers found that a lack of sleep increased levels of the hormone norepinephrine – a stress hormone and neurotransmitter involved in the fight-or-flight response, which increases heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. The participants also exhibited a dip in interleukin-6 levels, an antiviral protein that stimulates an immune response to infection or in the aftermath of trauma.
In the second session, the men were allowed to take two 30-minute naps the day following a night that they received only two hours of sleep. On the napping day, urine and saliva samples indicated no change in norepinephrine levels. Interleukin-6 levels also returned to normal after napping.
The findings suggest that napping can reverse some of the negative health effects of poor sleep and can also promote overall well-being.
While this study was the first of its kind, previous research has shown napping can have other benefits. A 2011 study found that a 45-minute snooze could lower blood pressure in those experiencing stress. Taking “down time” has also been linked to better productivity, mood and creativity.
So next time you’ve been up too late, or even need a break from stress and worry, try grabbing a quick nap. And tell your spouse or your boss, you’re self-medicating…
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“How naps do your brain (and body) good” Carolyn Gregoire, February 13, 2015, Huff Post, The Third Metric, huffingtonpost.com