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A Nap a Day Could Save Your Life and Turbocharge Your Memory

A Nap a Day Could Save Your Life and Turbocharge Your Memory

What do Leonardo da Vinci, Winston Churchill, Morgan Freeman and Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte have in common? They are (or were) all habitual nappers!

According to a new study published in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory by Saarland University, a mid-afternoon snooze isn’t just for your grandma anymore. It can dramatically boost your memory, increase cognitive function and develop your overall alertness.

A research team led by Alex Mecklinger conducted a controlled experiment with 41 participants, measuring their ability to memorize 90 single words and 120 unrelated word pairs.

After learning the words, half of the participants were given a one hour nap, while the other half were told to watch a DVD. The results showed that the nappers performed considerably better at recalling the words. In fact, they experienced a fivefold memory boost over the non-nappers!

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3 Awesome Benefits of the Nap

1. Napping does a system reboot & boosts memory

In the relentlessly driving pace of culture today, it’s easy to wallow in adrenaline, running out of momentum and eventually running out of steam. Crash and burn. A sensible nap, however, brings your body, mind and soul back into alignment, allowing you to once again face the nonsense of the day.

A short, solid nap–confirmed by Saarland University–has a significant effect on our ability to retain and recall information. Putting this all together, a nap is like pushing the reset button, furnishing you with enough new energy and fresh memory to tackle the six billion other tasks on your to-do list. Ctrl+Alt+Del for your body!

2. Napping lowers your blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease

Another study in 2007 found “acute changes in cardiovascular function” after a nap, thus lowering blood pressure–and with it stress, frustration and anxiety. While studying 23,000 Greek adults who regularly “siesta”, this study discovered a 37% lower risk of coronary mortality and heart disease. Nap more; live longer!

3. Napping makes you more productive and alert

That little bit of rest and reset allows your strength to return and your senses to be re-tuned. According to Dr. Sara C. Mednick, sensory perception is heightened and refocused post nap. When coupled with the other benefits of general relaxation, this rise in sensory perception results in much better focus and a broader alertness.

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What’s the Real Power Behind a Power Nap?

Unlike 85% of all mammals, humans only tend to sleep once a day. It’s not clear whether this is how we are supposed to sleep, or whether this is a drastic byproduct of modern society. Considering the health benefits of napping, the latter seems more likely.

A nap of up to 60 minutes allows you to enter into slow wave sleep (that’s the deep bit before you start dreaming). It’s during this time that your brain works on removing toxic byproducts while strengthening synaptic connections. This cements new memories and secures recent thought processes.

As you enter this period of sleep your heart rate and breathing slow down and your blood pressure drops. This gentle relaxation allows your heart, liver and digestive system to subtly adapt their routines toward stabilisation and recovery.

As if all this wasn’t enough, your body also produces less adrenaline and cools down a couple of degrees. This helps it to produce and release specific growth hormones that aid in muscle repair and cell restoration.

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None too shabby for a bit of sleeping, right?

How to Master the Nap

Now that we understand a bit more of the science behind the nap, how should we get on and do it?

Length

You don’t want to sleep too long or you’ll wake up groggy and potentially do damage to your nighttime patterns. You do want to sleep long enough, however, to allow restorative slow wave sleep to take effect. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 20 to 30 minutes of sleep, and the Saarland University study would suggest no more than 60.

Environment

Make sure that your space is warm, comfortable and free of bright lights and distractions. Light tells your brain that it’s supposed to be awake, so closing your curtains and shutting off that computer screen is a must. For a short nap, a comfortable chair or office sofa is better than getting into bed, with perhaps a light blanket to keep you warm when your temperature drops.

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Routine

It’s important not to mess up the rest of your sleep cycle, so keeping your nap consistent and near the middle of your day is probably a good idea. You could do worse than to nap around lunchtime after a bite to eat and a warm drink. The key is consistency; aim for the same time and the same length every day.

Waking up

Waking up on time is a big deal, especially if you want to keep your job! Rather than setting a blaring alarm, consider a waking light clock or phone app that brightens up the space around you gradually. Another option is waking up to the radio, or a soothing sound that gently increases over several minutes. Michael Hyatt likes to fall asleep holding his keys, knowing that when they drop and hit the floor he will wake up.

Don’t Underestimate the Nap

This little afternoon habit could greatly increase your productivity and even add years to your life. So nap more and live better.

Featured photo credit: Meagan Jean via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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