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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.

More by this author

Rebecca Beris

Rebecca is a wellness and lifestyle writer at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on September 15, 2020

4 Ways to Deal With Big Life Changes in a Positive Way

4 Ways to Deal With Big Life Changes in a Positive Way

Life changes are constant. Whether it’s in the workplace or our relationships, nothing in life ever remains the same for long.

Regardless of the gravity of change, it can always be a little scary. So scary, in fact, that some people are downright crippled by the idea of it, causing them to remain stagnant through anxiety.

Have you ever noticed how much of life’s transitional periods are riddled with anxious vibes? The quarter life crisis, the mid-life crisis, cold feet before getting married, retirement anxiety, and teenage angst are just a few examples of transitional periods when people tend to panic.

We can’t control every aspect of our lives, and we can’t stop change from happening. However, how we respond to change will greatly affect our overall life experience.

Here are 4 ways you can approach life changes in a positive way.

1. Don’t Fight It

I once heard one of my favorite yoga instructors say “Suffering is what occurs when we resist what is already happening.” The lesson has stuck with me ever since.

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Life changes are usually out of our control. Rather than trying to manipulate the situation and wishing things were different, try flowing with it instead.

Of course, some initial resistance is natural if we’re going into survival mode. Just make sure you are conscious of when this resistance is no longer serving you.

If you’re feeling anxious about impending life changes, it’s time to practice some techniques to address the anxiety directly. These can include meditation, exercise, talking with friends about how you’re feeling, or journaling.

If you’re worried about a big life change, such as starting a new job[1] or moving in with your partner, do your best to control your expectations. It may help you to talk with people you know about their experiences going through similar changes. This will help you form a realistic picture in your mind of what things will look like post-change.

2. Find Healthy Ways to Deal With Feelings

Whenever we’re in transitional periods, it can be easy to lose track of ourselves. Sometimes we feel like we’re being tossed about by life and like we’ve lost our footing, causing some very uncomfortable feelings to arise.

One way we can channel these feelings is by finding healthy ways to release them. For instance, whenever I find myself in a difficult transitional phase, I end up in a mixed martial arts studio.

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The physical activity helps me channel my emotions and release endorphins. It also helps me get in shape, which generally increases my mood and energy levels.

Exercise is important in cultivating positive emotions, but if you’re struggling with anxiety in particular, it’s important to cultivate a regular exercise routine as opposed to a one-off workout. One study found that “Aerobic exercise can promote increase in anxiety acutely and regular aerobic exercise promotes reduction in anxiety levels”[2].

If exercise isn’t your thing, there are other, less intense ways of cultivating positive emotions and reducing anxiety around life changes. You can try stretching, meditating, reading in nature, spending time with family and friends, or cooking a healthy meal.

Find what makes you feel good and helps you ground yourself in the present moment.

3. Reframe Your Perspective

Reframing perspectives is a very powerful tool used in life coaching. It helps clients take a situation they are struggling with, such as a major life change, and find some sort of empowerment in it.

Some examples of disempowered thinking during life changes include casting blame, focusing on negative details, or victimizing[3]. These perspectives can make awkward transitional phases much worse than they have to be.

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Meanwhile, if we utilize a more positive perspective, such as finding a lesson in the situation, realizing that there may be an opportunity for something, or that everything passes, we can come from a greater place of ease.

4. Find Time for Self-Reflection

Having time to reflect is important at any stage in your life, but it’s especially important during transitional periods. It’s quite simple really: we need our time to step back and get centered when things get a little crazy.

As a result, big life changes are perfect for doing some self-reflection. They are opportunities to check in with ourselves and practice getting grounded for a few minutes.

Take a look at this reflective cycle adapted from Glibb’s Self-reflection guide (1988):[4]

Use self-reflection when facing life changes.

    Self-reflective exercises include meditating, yoga or journaling,[5] all of which require some quiet time to get yourself together.

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    One study found that journal improves “self-efficacy, locus of control, and learning”[6]. A healthy sense of self-control can make the process of change easier to bear, so that in itself is a great reason to try self-reflection through journaling.

    To learn how to start journaling, you can check out this article.

    Final Thoughts

    Big life changes may rock us for a little while, but they don’t have to be as bad as we initially perceive them. If handled in a positive manner, transitional periods can pave the way for some serious self-growth, reflection, and awareness.

    Cultivate a sense of positivity and find ways to diminish the anxiety around life changes. Once you make it to the other side, you’ll be grateful that you made it through in the best way possible.

    More Tips on Facing Life Changes

    Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

    Reference

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