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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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    Denise Hill

    Speech Writer/Senior Editor

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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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