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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

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

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

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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.

13 Best Energy Boosting Foods to Help You Stay Sharp All Day What’s the Best Nap Length for the Biggest Brain Benefit? 8 Essential Vitamins And Minerals to Help You Sleep Better 25 Healthy Habits for a Fitter Body and Happier Mind

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Last Updated on July 22, 2021

How to Quit Drinking for a Healthier Body and Mind

How to Quit Drinking for a Healthier Body and Mind
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Has anyone ever suggested that you should cut down on your drinking or, for that matter, quit drinking alcohol out of your life completely? Have you ever felt that way on your own, especially after waking up super late for work with a pounding headache and blurred vision the day after a long night out on the town or getting down in the club?

Let me start by saying that I am not trying to demonize the consumption of adult alcoholic beverages. I’m the last person to judge you or anyone else for making a conscious decision to drink alcohol responsibly. Instead, as a licensed mental health counselor and certified master addiction professional, I have a professional responsibility to help my clients take greater control over their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors by gaining insight into the underlying issues that have negatively impacted their lives.

Is Drinking Alcohol a Problem for You?

First things first. Is drinking alcohol a problem for you? Since alcohol has been known to impair your judgment, you may not even realize that it is.

According to the 5th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or more commonly referred to as the DSM-5, the universal reference guide used by mental health and addiction professionals to diagnose all substance abuse and mental health disorders, alcohol use disorder is defined as a “problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.”

It is manifested by experiencing at least two of the following symptoms within a 12-month period:[1]

  1. Alcohol consumed in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended
  2. Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control the use of alcohol
  3. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain, use, or recover from the effects of alcohol.
  4. Craving or a strong desire or urge to use alcohol
  5. Recurrent alcohol use results in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, and home.
  6. Continued alcohol use despite persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused by or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol
  7. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced.
  8. Recurrent alcohol use in physically hazardous situations
  9. Alcohol use is continued despite the knowledge of having persistent or hazardous physical or psychological problems likely caused by alcohol.
  10. Tolerance is present in which there is a need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication.
  11. Withdrawal, as evidenced by experiencing any combination of both physical and psychological discomfort following cessation after a period of heavy or prolonged alcohol use.

Nevertheless, just because you may not meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder, does not mean that you should not quit drinking alcohol. Although you may appear to be able to handle your alcohol on the outside, excessive alcohol use has been shown to negatively impact your overall health. Just like nicotine, alcohol is a habit-forming drug.

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However, unlike the stimulant properties found within nicotine, alcohol is classified as a depressant. It essentially slows down your central nervous system’s ability to effectively process feelings, emotions, and information.

With your defenses down, alcohol can make you feel more emotionally sensitive, sad, vulnerable, and depressed—for example, with regard to bringing back feelings associated with past traumas that you may have worked hard to overcome, or perhaps those in which you may have never had the time to properly address at all.

A study published by the National Institute for Health showed that alcoholics were somewhere between 60 and 120 times more likely to complete suicide than those free from psychiatric illness.[2]  Additionally, although having a couple of cocktails may make it easier for you to talk to a stranger as it lowers your inhibitions, it can also negatively impact your judgment—for example, by drinking and driving.

Additionally, alcohol has been known to make people more argumentative and belligerent, especially when they are confronted about the issue. A study published by the World Health Organization estimates that approximately 55% of domestic violence perpetrators were drinking alcohol prior to the assault and that women who were abused were 15 times more likely to abuse alcohol.[3]

When it comes to your physical health, there is an overabundance of ways in which excessive drinking is bad for your body. Since alcohol provides little or no nutritional value and is often combined with high-calorie mixers, it can lead to obesity.

People who drink alcohol in excess are generally less physically active, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.[4] Additionally, excessive drinking inflames the pancreas, making it more difficult for it to secrete insulin, thereby contributing to diabetes.

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Furthermore, excessive alcohol use can lead to liver damage, such as cirrhosis, in which the body is unable to properly remove waste products from the blood leaving the stomach and intestines. As a result, people with cirrhosis of the liver may appear jaundiced, swollen, and confused. A recent study published by Forbes indicated that even moderate drinking tracked with decreases in both grey and white brain matter, essentially interfering with brain functioning as it alters the brain’s chemistry and composition.[5]

With all of that being said, if you feel that alcohol use may be getting in the way of being able to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I recommend that you take a moment to consider these six simple ways to quit drinking alcohol to achieve a healthier mind, body, and soul.

1. Stay Away From the Bottle

If you happen to be a recreational drinker—someone who has a couple of drinks here and there, every so often or once in a blue moon—and you want to quit drinking alcohol altogether, the easiest way to quit drinking alcohol is just to stay as far away from it as possible. I mean it’s really that simple, isn’t it? Not so fast! Alcohol is everywhere, from the supermarket to the soccer field.

Even with all of the potential risks, people continue to drink alcohol at any number of social gatherings, business meetings, and even religious ceremonies, activities that are in many cases almost impossible to avoid completely. Sporting events, for example, all seem to be sponsored by sleek, sexy, and, at the same time, remarkably socially conscious breweries.

Nevertheless, although alcohol is everywhere, the next time you go out with your friends to your favorite hotspot, try ordering tonic water with lime, or perhaps even the virgin version of your favorite cocktail instead—like a pina colada or strawberry daiquiri—so you can keep the umbrella and just get rid of the rum.

2. Set Expectations With Others

Unless you are prepared to cut ties with all of your friends and family members who like to drink alcohol, be prepared to set certain expectations with them when it comes to drinking when you are around them.

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First, let them know that you are not judging them but rather, making a personal choice not to drink alcohol. Then, set clear boundaries with them by letting them know whether or not you are comfortable being around them when they choose to drink. Remember, you are the most powerful gatekeeper of everyone and everything that surrounds you.

3. Own Your Issues!

The first step to quitting alcohol—or quitting the use of any habit-forming mood-altering substance for that matter—is to first admit that you have a problem with it, whatever the problem may be. I suggest that you first start by identifying how alcohol has either already affected your life, or how it could do so in the future if you continue to drink.

Take a personal inventory of everything important to you, such as your relationship with your family and your faith, as well as the condition of your health and your personal finances. Then, carefully consider how alcohol could be negatively impacting each item. Set aside some personal quality time to journal all of your thoughts in black and white to help you see the situation from a more objective point of view. Take it from me, it’s not easy to admit that you have a problem, but once you do, it can be a very liberating feeling.

4. Ask for Help

Once you have admitted to yourself that you have a problem with alcohol, you can then admit it to someone else, preferably someone who can help you process your feelings and concerns in a safe, constructive, and non-judgmental way.

Although family and friends may be very supportive, you may want to work with a therapist who can offer a more objective perspective along with a variety of tools to not only help you stay sober but also process and ultimately work through any underlying issues that may have caused you to drink in the first place.

Furthermore, in the unfortunate event that you have become physically dependent on alcohol to make it through the day, medical supervision may be needed to help you manage any combination of withdrawal symptoms, including restlessness, anxiety, chills, nausea, and even potentially life-threatening seizures.

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5. Join a Support Group

When you are trying to defend yourself against a cunning, baffling, and powerful opponent, there is usually strength in numbers. Beyond reaching out for professional help to address any underlying issues that may be holding you or anyone else back from staying sober, joining a support group is an excellent way to strengthen your foundation for recovery from alcoholism.

Although caring friends and family may be able to provide you with unconditional love, members of your support group may also be able to offer a much more objective step-building approach for long-term sobriety. Fortunately, there are support group meetings available all over the world, you just have to look for one that meets your needs.

6. Make a Commitment to Stay Sober

After you have owned your issues and learned the tools to stay sober, the next step is to commit yourself to actually staying sober. Breaking a bad habit does not usually happen overnight. Typically, it’s a process that requires time and tenacity. There is no exception when it comes to quitting alcohol.

Nevertheless, many people find themselves frantically trying to stop drinking after any combination of unfortunate, uncomfortable, and sometimes unforgiving events, such as being fired from a job, having an argument with a loved one, getting caught driving under the influence, and experiencing medical complications associated with alcohol use, such as liver failure.

Final Thoughts

In the end, If you truly want to quit drinking, make an open and honest commitment to yourself that you will not only put away the bottle but that you will also take out the tools every day to stay mentally, physically, and spiritually sober.

More on How to Quit Drinking

Featured photo credit: Zach Kadolph via unsplash.com

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Reference

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