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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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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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