If you're searching for lifestyle changes to help lower your blood pressure, one effective strategy may be an old-fashioned siesta. New research from Greece found that systolic blood pressure (the top number) in people who took a midday nap averaged 5 percent lower than that of patients who didn't nap.

The researchers enrolled 200 men and 186 women with hypertension to assess the effect of a daily nap on blood pressure readings. The average age of the patients was 61.4 years. The researchers tested the patients' blood pressure in the office and by utilizing 24-hour ambulatory measurements and assessed their cardiovascular health. They also recorded the amount of napping time the patients reported. After adjusting for other factors that could affect blood pressure - among them age, gender, body mass index, smoking status, salt, alcohol and coffee consumption and exercise - they found that blood pressure was lower among those who took a daytime nap, and that these patients needed fewer drugs to control their blood pressure than those who didn't nap.

Study leader Manolis Kallistratos, a cardiologist, noted that although the blood pressure reductions seen in the study do not seem dramatic, decreases as small as 2 millimeters of mercury in systolic blood pressure can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 10 percent.

My take: I'm a big fan of napping. I used to worry about the time it took to nap, and I would fight off the impulse when I had work to do, but I've since learned that people who nap generally enjoy better mental health and mental efficiency than people who don't nap. They may also sleep better at night. Now, if I feel the need to nap and have the opportunity, I just take one, and usually wake up after 10 or 20 minutes feeling refreshed. The National Sleep Foundation reports that dozing off for 20 to 30 minutes is the ideal amount of time to sharpen your alertness. Other sleep experts have suggested that an hour-long nap can help your memory for facts, places and faces, and a 90-minute nap has been found to boost creativity. If the newly reported effects of napping on blood pressure are confirmed in future studies, there will be even more reason to take a daily nap.