Sleeping deeply doesn’t just help you stay focused and full of pep. According to researchers at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, it also relaxes and opens arteries, cutting the risk of high blood pressure by 70 percent! More good news: Experts say these sleep-deepeners amplify the benefits because they offer pressure-taming payoffs of their own.
Stir this into your bath.
A big dollop of bubble bath slows heat loss from hot water by as much as 50 percent, helping your steamy soak stay at your favorite temperature for 20 minutes before cooling, British researchers say. That’s because the air-filled bubbles act like foam insulation, blocking heat loss from the water’s surface. The payoffs of a 20-minute toasty soak? It relaxes tense muscles and dilates arteries, helping you sleep 123 percent more deeply and trimming up to nine points off your blood pressure at the same time!
Choose soothing tunes.
Great news from Harvard Medical School researchers: Just putting on relaxing background music for 60 minutes each evening can lower your blood pressure as effectively as meditation, plus it cuts your risk of insomnia by as much as 65 percent if you make it a nightly habit. Explains psychologist Jan Stams, Ph.D., “Soothing music tamps down your production of a stress hormone (cortisol) that tightens arteries and makes you feel restless and alert when you want to feel sleepy and relaxed.”
Eat breakfast before bed.
Surprise! Eating a warm bowl of oatmeal before bed will cut your risk of middle-of-the-night wake-ups by 55 percent in one week-plus, it will trim 7.5 points off your blood pressure if you enjoy it nightly, say University of Minnesota researchers. Thanks goes to oatmeal compounds (beta-glucans and saponins) that prompt the release of the sleep-deepening, artery-relaxing hormone melatonin.
This calming amino acid GABA ($13.42, Amazon) is produced in tiny amounts by your own brain cells, and French scientists say taking 500 mg. at bedtime can cut your risk of insomnia and middle-of-the-night wake-ups in half, plus trim up to nine points off your blood pressure in as little as three weeks. Explains neurologist Wendy Shin, M.D., GABA calms your entire nervous system, plus it shifts brain function to a calmer, more relaxed state. Note: Check with your doctor before supplementing.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.