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3 Ways Napping Boosts Your Brain Power (And How To Maximize The Benefits)

3 Ways Napping Boosts Your Brain Power (And How To Maximize The Benefits)

It’s been said that everything we ever really need to know we learned in Kindergarten. Think about it. We learned: how to count, write our name, how to share and how to whisper.

One aspect of Kindergarten that most adults have given up on is “Nap Time.”

Sadly, napping is often frowned upon in our workaholic culture. Naps have gained the reputation for being for the lazy and unambitious. The person falling asleep at his or her desk at work is ridiculed. And when we doze off, we feel guilty.

3 Benefits of Napping

The nap has earned a bad rap–and unfairly so. Research has proven that there are some benefits of napping. Taking a short snooze can actually be a powerful tool for self-improvement. Naps can also increase our health overall well-being, our intelligence and productivity. Below are some direct benefits of napping:

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1. Increases alertness

A NASA study found that a 40 minute nap increases alertness by 100%. Other studies have found that a 20 minute nap is more effective than both  200 mgs of caffeine (a cup of coffee)  and a bout of exercise.

Studies have shown that one of the primary benefits of napping is it’s restorative powers. In fact, if you break up your day with a nap, you will be refreshed and as alert and energetic for the second part of your day as you were for the first.

2. Improves memory and cognitive processing

One of the benefits of napping is that it improves your working memory and cognitive processing ability. So you remember more and think better. Working memory is involved when working on complex tasks where you have to process information and perform a myriad of tasks while still retaining a bunch of other information in your memory.

Researchers from Saarland University in Germany found that a short daytime nap significantly boosts brain function and that sleeping for about 45-60 minutes could improve learning and memory by fivefold.

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3. Boosts creativity

A 2013 study conducted by scientists from Georgetown University’s Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging focused their research on examining the brain activity of participants who were napping. They found that the left brain—known for logic and analyzing (the “editing” side of the brain)—rested quietly. The right side of the brain, however—the side in charge of creativity and big-picture thinking (the “drafting” side of the brain)—chattered away to itself and the other side of the brain the whole time.

This showed researchers that the brain is able to engage in the creative process more efficiently and uninterrupted during sleep. And while you most likely won’t dream up the next big technological advancement during your 20 minute nap, researchers were able to determine that naps do assist in developing creative solutions for existing problems you’ve been grappling with. When you are awake your brain actively works on the problem–while performing many other functions–when you fall asleep, the creative center in your brain continues quietly mulling over the problem.

3 Ways to maximize the benefits of napping

https://www.flickr.com/photos/timothykrause/6040624392
    Photo Credit: Timothy Krause on Flickr

    Now that we understand the benefits associated with the mid-day snooze, here’s how we can make the most out of a quick session of shut eye.

    1. Try to schedule time for naps

    Researchers suggest keeping a regularly scheduled time for daily naps. The best time for a quick snooze falls in the middle of the day–between the hours of 1 PM and 3 PM. One study explains:

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    “Because of the natural cycles of our circadian rhythms, we are at our most tired twice during a 24-hour period. One peak of sleepiness is usually in the middle of the night, so the other, 12 hours later, falls smack-dab in the middle of the afternoon.”

    2. Keep naps between 15 and 45 minutes

    Napping for too long can cause sleep inertia–which is that groggy disoriented  feeling you have when you wake up and sometimes you may feel even more tired than you did before your nap.

    The optimal time for a nap is 90-110 minutes as it allows your brain and body to experience the optimal balance of all 5 stages of sleep, or a full sleep cycle.

    The problem with this is most of us do not have a 90 minute period between the hours of 1 P M and 3 PM to get in a full sized nap. So experts say the next best thing is to take a quick nap 10-20 minutes so that we remain in stages one and two of the sleep cycle. This allows our brains to rest and recover but keeps us from moving into the deeper levels of sleep and waking groggy and tired.

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    3. Take a caffeine nap

    Sleep expert Michael Breus, Ph.D is a genius. He introduced the concept of the “napalatte” in an interview with the Huffington Post. How it works is first you quickly down a cup of coffee and then immediately take a 20 minute nap. The caffeine will kick in right after you wake up and you will be refreshed, energized and mentally sharp. It is the perfect pairing.

    After this dynamic duo, “you’re good for four hours, guaranteed,” says Breus.

    Final Word

    Even if you don’t fall completely asleep and don’t make it past stage 1 of the sleep cycle, just a five or 10-minute power nap can still be beneficial especially if you’re feeling sleep-deprived. A 2002 study found that snoozing for just 10 minutes can result in greater feelings of alertness after a night of restricted sleep.

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

    18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

    The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

    1. Understand Yourself Better

    Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

    Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

    2. Keep Track of Small Changes

    I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

    Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

    3. Become Aware of What Matters

    As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

    You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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    4. Boost Creativity

    The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

    When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

    You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

    5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

    A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

    Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

    6. Process Life Experiences

    When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

    Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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    7. Stress Relief

    In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

    Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

    8. Provide Direction

    Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

    One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

    9. Solve Problems

    Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

    Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

    When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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    10. Find Relief From Fighting

    Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

    Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

    11. Find Meaning in Life

    Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

    12. Allow Yourself to Focus

    Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

    13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

    When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

    14. Let the Past Go

    I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

    15. Allow Freedom

    Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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    16. Enhance Your Career

    Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

    Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

    17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

    All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

    18. Catalog Your Life for Others

    No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

    We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

    Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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