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How Napping Changes Your Brain That Makes You More Creative

How Napping Changes Your Brain That Makes You More Creative

Do you find that by the afternoon you are getting weary and losing focus? You may even find yourself starting to nod off. Chances are you need a good afternoon nap.

Napping has been shown to aid in hormonal maintenance, cell repair and even promote better heart function. Napping can also help you live longer, look younger and keep more fit and active. By taking a nap you recharge your brain which leads to greater alertness, improved memory retention and creative insight.

Professor Jim Home from Loughborough University says that human beings are actually designed to have two sleeps a day; one in the early afternoon and a long one at night.

An article in The New York Times notes that napping is a common occurrence in many countries around the world:

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The idea that we should sleep in eight-hour chunks is relatively recent. The world’s population sleeps in various and surprising ways. Millions of Chinese workers continue to put their heads on their desks for a nap of an hour or so after lunch, for example, and daytime napping is common from India to Spain.

“Emerging scientific evidence suggests that naps — even very short ones — significantly enhance cognitive function,” Jonathan Friedman, M.D., director of the Texas Brain and Spine Institute, in Bryan says. “Increasing understanding of how sleep improves brain function may someday allow us to harness this effect, and the current study may open one of many doors in this regard.” 

Napping enhances brain power

Napping helps to clear out the brain’s temporary storage space so that the brain is ready to receive and retain new information, according to researchers in the US. This research was led by Dr Matthew Walker, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California.

The researchers propose that a nap that lasts around an hour can refresh the mind and restore brain power and may even make you smarter.
Walker stated:

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“Sleep not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness but, at a neurocognitive level, it moves you beyond where you were before you took a nap.” 

The study

39 healthy young adults participated in the study. The participants were divided into two groups: a nap group and a no-nap group. Both groups were given a task that required them to retain a lot of information and facts. This task was taken at midday. At 2 pm the nap group participants went to sleep for about 1.5 hours. The no-nap participants remained awake. A new lot of learning activities were undertaken by both groups at 6 pm.

The results

The group that took an afternoon nap achieved better results in the 6pm exercise then the group who were forced to stay awake the entire day. Once more the nap group performed even better in the 6pm exercise then they had in the 12 pm task.

Thus, it was proposed by Walker that the process of napping cleared the brain’s short term memory storage so that the nap taking participants could retain more new information.

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The hippocampus

Studies have shown that the hippocampus temporarily stores fact-based memories. The hippocampus then transfers these memories to the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Walker says the hippocampus functions much like an email inbox, when it gets full you need to sleep in order to clear it out. If you don’t sleep the email box will be full up and won’t be able to receive any more emails or information.

“It’s just going to bounce until you sleep and move it into another folder,” said Walker.

Napping and creativity

Recent research, presented at an annual meeting of neuroscientists, showed that during rest the right side of the brain was stimulated while the left hemisphere remained relatively quiet. To achieve this findings researchers monitored the brain activity of 15 at-rest individuals. The right side of the brain is the area of the brain associated with creativity.

The studies’ author Andrei Medvedev, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging says: “The right side of the brain was better integrated”.

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It is generally thought that the right hemisphere is associated with creative tasks, such as visualization and thinking about the broader picture. The left side is believed to be more analytic and focused on numbers and language.

Medvedev proposes that the right brain is “cleaning up” and consolidating memories when one takes a nap.

Summation

We have seen how napping positively effects the brain in various ways. Not only does it boost brain power but it also stimulates the right side of the brain which is thought to “clean up” our brains and consolidate memories. So next time you find yourself loosing focus or becoming less productive as the day progresses it may be worth your while to take a short nap.

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How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

Keeping yourself awake at work can be a real challenge when you’re bored, exhausted or sleep-deprived.

But before you reach for that can of Red Bull, bottle of Mountain Dew, or pot of coffee, try these healthy remedies to stimulate your 5 different senses and help you stay awake at work:

Sight – Visual Stimulation

The first thing you do when you wake up is opening your eyes, so your visual stimulation is very important to keeping your energy level high.

1. Maximize your exposure to light.

Your body’s internal rhythm is regulated by the amount of light you receive. The greater your exposure, the more alert you will feel.

Open the shades and let in the sunlight. Step outside or look out the window. Turn on all the artificial lights in your office or around your work space.

2. Exercise your eyes (or give them a break).

Roll your eyes up and down, side to side and diagonally. Rotate them clockwise and then counterclockwise. Squeeze them shut and then open them wide. Do this several times.

Reading and sitting in front of a computer screen for long periods can lead to eye fatigue.

Take regular breaks with deliberate blinking and looking out into the distance.

3. Take note of your environment.

Learn to enjoy people-watching. Observe their activities, speech, body language and interactions with others. Notice the details of building, trees and other objects around you, including their color, shape and size.

By doing this, you’re not only relaxing your eye muscles but also calming your mind.

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Hearing – Auditory Stimulation

What you hear or listen to have direct effect on your brain. This is why we feel so annoyed and sometimes angry when we hear construction noise when we’re working.

4. Engage in conversation.

Talk to a friend or colleague. Trade funny stories. Discuss your business venture, a creative idea, the latest political scandal, or any other topic that interests you.

Practice mindful listening to what you and the other person are saying. Tune into the tone, volume and content of the conversation.

Learn how to practice better listening from this guide:

Why Listen to Reply Instead of Understand Is the Key to Failure

5. Listen to upbeat music.

Try hip hop, rock or jazz to keep you alert. Instrumental, non-distracting music works best.

Sing, whistle, and hum along if you can. Plug in the earphones if you must.

Smell – Olfactory Stimulation

If you’re feeling sleepy and suddenly smell the coffee, you’ll probably feel more energetic. This is why smell is an influential stimulation.

6. Work your nose.

Aroma therapists recommend essential oils of peppermint (to boost energy), rosemary (to build awareness), eucalyptus (to increase oxygen), cedarwood  (to activate your mind), and cinnamon (to improve your reaction time).

If you don’t have essential oils on hand, you can use lotions or burning candles that provide the same scents.

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Citrus like lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges are also natural olfactory stimulants. Get a whiff of these citrus scents to stay awake.

Taste – Gustatory Stimulation

If you want an energetic day at work, you can’t let your tongue feeling plain and flavorless.

7. Have a good breakfast.

Start off with the most important meal of the day.

Think fresh, light and healthy: bran cereals, wholegrain breads, fruits, and yogurt.

Nix the heavy stuff like sausages, greasy eggs or pancakes.

Need some breakfasts inspirations? Check out these ideas:

20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time

8. Drink lots of water.

Keep a glass or bottle of H2O near you and sip from it throughout the day. Dehydration can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and sleepy.

So make sure you drink enough water throughout the day. Not sure how much to drink? This can help you:

How Much Water Should You Drink Each Day (and How Much Is Too Much for You)

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Think that you’ve been drinking too little water? Try these friendly reminders:

3 Best Apps To Help You Drink Much More Water

9. Eat energy-boosting snacks.

Nuts and fruits (like bananas, apples and strawberries) are sure bets. Pairings with staying power include baby carrots with a low-fat cream cheese dip; celery sticks with peanut butter; red peppers with hummus; and plain yogurt with granola.

Avoid carb-filled, sugary snacks that make you crash and leave you feeling tired.

Here you can find some healthy snack ideas:

25 Healthy Snack Recipes To Make Your Workday More Productive

Touch – Tactile Stimulation

Last but not least, your sense of touch will make you physically feel more energetic and less stressful.

10. Splash cold water on your face.

Do this in the morning, during bathroom breaks and in the afternoon. Being exposed to cold water pushes your body to adjust and regulate its internal temperature, which in turn keeps you alert.

This works the same as you take a cold shower to increase mood and alertness. Take a look at this article to learn more about it:

5 Surprising Benefits of Cold Showers

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11. Use acupressure.

Apply pressure to, massage, or tap on the stimulation points of your body. These include the top of your head, the back of your neck, the back of your hand (between the thumb and index finger), just below the knee and your earlobes.

Watch this video to learn about the acupressure points you can try:

12. Get moving.

Move away from your chair and stand, walk, run or climb the stairs. Feel the earth under your feet. Stretch and twist. Do jumping jacks, lunges, push-ups and back bends.

And if you need to move more discreetly, wiggle your feet, bounce your knee up and down, scrunch your toes, or cross your legs.

You can also try some simple stretches and exercises at your desk:

Unlike addictive caffeine fixes, these remedies activate your senses, engage your attention, amp up your energy and prevent morning grogginess and afternoon slumps without the side effects or health risks.

Pick a few ways from this list of suggestions and practice them consistently. And when you do this consistently, you’ll soon see the positive results — a more energetic and productive you at work.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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