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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 December 2, 2019

    10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

    10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

    Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

    In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

    These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

    1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

    Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

    But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

    Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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    2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

    You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

    The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

    3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

    If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

    Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

    If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

    4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

    Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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    To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

    In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

    5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

    We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

    If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

    Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

    “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

    6. Give for the Joy of Giving

    When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

    One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

    So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

    7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

    Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

    Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

    8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

    When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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    So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

    9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

    Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

    It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

    It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

    10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

    There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

    But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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    Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

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    Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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