People should follow in the footsteps of Sir Winston Churchill and enjoy a lunchtime nap, say experts.
A daily nap cuts blood pressure and the chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke, while also cutting the need for blood pressure medications.
New research presented at the European Society of Cardiology conference in London found people benefited if they had a snooze, preferably of an hour or more.
Sir Winston famously said nature had not intended man to work from 8am until midnight “without that refreshment of blessed oblivion” in the middle of the day.
Dr Manolis Kallistratos, a cardiologist at Asklepieion Voula General Hospital in Athens, Greece, who led the new study, said: “Although (poet) William Blake affirms that it is better to think in the morning, act at noon, eat in the evening and sleep at night, noon sleep seems to have beneficial effects.
“Two influential UK prime ministers were supporters of the midday nap.
“Winston Churchill said that we must sleep some time between lunch and dinner while Margaret Thatcher didn’t want to be disturbed around 3pm.
“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 study included 386 people with raised blood pressure who were aged 61 on average.
After adjusting for other health factors that might influence the results, it found nappers had a four per cent lower blood pressure reading when awake and a six per cent lower reading while they slept at night than people who did not nap.
Dr Kallistratos said although the reductions seem low, even modest reductions can cut the risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, by up to 10 per cent.
“Our study shows that not only is midday sleep associated with lower blood pressure, but longer sleeps are even more beneficial,” he said.
“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.”