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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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