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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 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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