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Published on June 19, 2019

What’s the Best Nap Length for the Biggest Brain Benefit?

What’s the Best Nap Length for the Biggest Brain Benefit?

Would you like to know the secret to the perfect nap? Are you wondering the best nap length or the perfect amount of z’s to catch up on some much needed sleep, feel amazing and help your brain function better? We’ve done some research and found some solutions, so if so, please read on!

We all know that children need naps, and if you are a parent, you well know the importance of naps for your kids: a properly timed nap can make or break the rest of the day and everything can go straight down hill if an afternoon nap is missed. Sometimes less sleep can make getting to sleep at be time even more of a struggle. Kids tend to need more sleep than adults however the average adult needs between seven to nine hours of sleep per night – suffice to say, most people in the modern world do not get enough on a regular basis.

In this article, I’ll cover the benefits of napping and the best nap length to experience its benefits.

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep plays an absolute vital role in our overall health, and our cells renew and regenerate when our bodies go through sleep cycles. Physically and mentally, the function of sleep helps us heal and work through illness and stress so we can wake up fully functional.

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Needless to say, sleep deprivation over time can alter immune function, affecting the body’s immunity and decreasing the efficacy of the killer T cells (important in irradicating disease). Adequate sleep may help fight certain cancers, enhance and protect cardiovascular health, decrease irritability, and can even affect metabolism and weight.[1]

It’s fairly obvious that we need to make sleep – proper sleep that is, a priority in our lives for the sake of our health. It’s often insinuated that those who prioritize sleep are somehow lazy or not driven, but that is clearly not the case. In fact, getting the right amount of sleep seems to help us function much more effectively in our day to day lives, so its well worth the effort to fit it in.

Due to the ethical limits on research on human subject, science really has no specific evidence on just what happens when people lose sleep beyond a few days. The likelihood is, that we simply could not live without it.[2]

Benefits of Napping

For those of us who have the luxury of being able to nap, we know it feels like a wonderful thing – curling up on the couch with a blanket on a blustery day, all cozy and warm – we don’t need science to tell us that, but can it really help recharge our brain? The research says yes.

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If we don’t get an adequate amount of sleep at night, a daytime nap just may improve alertness and motor performance. A nap may also help improve reasoning and reaction time, but the best part? A nap could even improve our mood![3]

Take a look at this article to find out more about the benefits of napping: 3 Ways Napping Boosts Your Brain Power (And How To Maximize The Benefits)

What’s the Best Nap Length?

The question remains – how long should we nap? In fact, there are a few optimal nap lengths depending on your available time and desired outcome.

  • If you are feeling an afternoon lull and just need a quick refresh in alertness, 10 to 20 minutes is your optimal goal, just a quick recharge to help you get through that last meeting of the day or bout of emails sitting in your inbox.
  • Feeling frustrated, stressed or need to remember some important points from a book you are reading, and have a bit more time to kill? A 60 minute nap showed a decrease in impulsivity, a greater tolerance to frustration as well as helped with cognitive memory processing. Some research showed even a small amount of sleep could potentially help reinforce learned material!
  • Overwhelmed and exhausted and need a total reset? 90 minutes enhanced creativity, emotional and procedural memory and allows for a complete cycle of sleep – which may result in less of that groggy feeling you may get with a shorter nap.

Dr. Sara Mednick, PhD, believes we may get the same learning enhancement benefits in a 90 minute nap as we do in an eight hour sleep period.[4]

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When to Nap?

So we know how long to nap, now when exactly should we nap? There are likely days when a nap could come in handy right after you get up or right before bed, but these are not the best choices. It all depends on if you are an early morning riser or a night owl.

For early risers, around 1PM is best; for the night owls, around 3PM is better. Keep in mind though, to try not to sleep much later than 4 to 4:30PM, or you could risk having trouble getting to sleep at bed time.

Regular napping has shown a decrease in overall stress for some people, thus could also reduce the risk of heart attack / heart disease, stroke, and excessive weight gain.

Bonus Tips on Napping

Need to be awake and going immediately after a power nap? Drink some coffee (or something caffeinated) just before a 20 to 30 minute snooze and by the time you wake up the caffeine will have had time to kick in and you’ll be ready to go!

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Here are some tips to make napping easier:

  • Pull the blinds, make the area dark.
  • Get cozy – make sure you are warmly dressed or have a warm blanket.
  • Do some stretches prior to your nap.
  • Don’t stress it if you can’t sleep – the rest is helpful either way.

The Bottom Line

Now that you know the best nap length that will give your brain the biggest bang for your buck, it’s time to put napping into your routine.

Whether you’re an early rise or a night owl trying to get a quick refresh or productivity boost, find a time that fits you to take nap to reap its benefits.

Featured photo credit: STEPHANIE MONTELONGO via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Health Publishing: Importance of Sleep : Six reasons not to scrimp on sleep
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: Repaying your sleep debt
[3] American Psychological Association: The Science of Nap
[4] Dr. Sara Medinick PhD: Take a Nap

More by this author

Laura Barr

Laura is a registered clinical massage therapist & certified fitness consultant specializing in holistic nutrition, injury & weight management.

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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