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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 September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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