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6 Reasons Why People Who Take A Nap Are Highly Productive

6 Reasons Why People Who Take A Nap Are Highly Productive

Have you ever looked over at someone (perhaps a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed work colleague, or a continually chipper friend) and found yourself scratching your head at their incredible ability to get things done? Chances are: that person is a napper.

It’s easy to dismiss those who put their head down from time to time as being overtired, lazy or seeking an easy escape from a task they’d ideally like to avoid; however, in reality the people who make an active effort to catch a brief forty winks (or ten winks, if you will) every day are doing the right thing when it comes to getting things done.

So why are people who take a nap so highly productive? Here’s a list of six reasons why they can get so much done.

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1. They Don’t Suffer The Pangs Of Stress As Much As You Do

More often than not, those who we consider to be the more laid-back people in life are the ones who have absolutely no reservations whatsoever about sneaking in a quick nap at any time, in any place. This isn’t a coincidence – science actually has the napper’s back.

Research has shown that those who take a daily nap for just fifteen minutes actually have half the amount of cortisol bumping around in their system than non-nappers do. Cortisol is essentially our stress hormone. The less of this stuff that’s raging around in our bodies, the much more relaxed we’re likely to feel.

2. They Have Got Better Memories

It might be tempting to assume that those who doze off for half an hour every day are missing out on life, but in later years they’re going to remember a heck of a lot more than a person who stays awake from the moment they clamber out of bed in the morning. German researchers have determined that napping for as little as 45 minutes a day can actually improve your cognitive ability and memory skills by up to five times their original amount. If that isn’t enough of an incentive to snooze on your lunch, then what is?

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3. They Are More Alert

That’s right, the serial nappers aren’t such a lazy crowd after all. In fact, they probably have way more energy and capability to complete tasks to a high standard than you do.

According the National Sleep Foundation, napping can actually increase a sense of alertness in human beings. The more alert you are, the more you get done, and the less mistakes you make. That can’t be such a bad thing, can it?

4. They Refuse To Get Burnt Out

When you find yourself barely able to move, after throwing every last ounce of energy you have at the mountainous pile of work on your desk, it’s tough looking over the other side of the office to see your colleague whistling merrily and walking with a spring in his step. They’ve been under the same kind of pressure as you, so why aren’t they feeling these effects in the same way? The answer is that you’ve burnt yourself out, and they haven’t. Your colleague has avoided turning into a shuffling zombie simply by taking a cheeky fifteen minutes every day, just resting their eyes for a little bit.

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Getting burnt out is extremely dangerous for you health, so take a leaf out of the napper’s’ playbook and lie down once in a while. You’ll soon begin to feel the beneficial effects.

5. They Are Low-Maintenance

Turns out that the term “beauty sleep” wasn’t plucked from thin air after all.

That’s right, grabbing some shut-eye during the day has actually been proven to prevent premature aging, aid cell repair, and ultimately improve your appearance overall. The protein produced during nap-time helps to mend skin, muscle, and tissue damage. This means that sneaking in a cheeky little nap will ultimate lead to you looking your best and feeling your best every single day, thus reducing time spent on maintaining your appearance.

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6. They Have Their Emotions Under Control

Hormones are a funny thing. These molecules are basically in charge of our emotional states. When they’re out of whack, boy oh boy, do we feel the effects.

Another huge benefit of napping is the way in which it helps to regulate hormones and keep them in check, allowing us to remain in a balanced emotional state. Two of our hunger hormones, named grhenlin and leptin, are susceptible to falling out of order. When they do, our first port of call is the refrigerator — as our appetites abruptly spike. Taking a nap helps to keep these pesky hormones in line, preventing us from getting distracted by our emotions, and the kind of unnecessary snacking that piles on the pounds!

Featured photo credit: WarmSleepy, Flickr via flickr.com

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Gareth Lloyd

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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