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Published on March 26, 2021

9 Benefits of Napping (Backed by Science)

9 Benefits of Napping (Backed by Science)

Continuous scientific breakthroughs over the past 20 years are enhancing our understanding of the mental and physiological processes affected by sleep hygiene and habits. To that end, the current data clearly demonstrates several benefits of napping—a practice that, as recently as 2009, even the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommended we avoid.[1]

Though it’s important to note that there can be risks for people who try to use napping as a substitute for adequate nightly slumber, the facts remain: short naps (ideally 20 minutes, and no longer than 30 minutes), taken with intention at least 7-8 hours before bedtime, can deliver a range of benefits. These include improved brain function, stress relief, and a multitude of other valuable perks.

In addition to the minimal scientific proof of these benefits (until relatively recently), napping has also been frowned upon by most of our society for countless generations. High achievers in particular often neglect to take breaks of any kind. They dismiss the benefits of napping in favor of “powering through,” aligning with the myth that this will result in bigger success and productivity gains. The idea that slowing down could actually result in a more effective work performance has long been defined by employers. It also clashes with the majority of beliefs so intricately woven into the fabric of our “hustle” culture.

Wearing our busyness as a badge of honor, Americans are among the last to embrace what many other cultures—including those of most Hispanic American countries, as well as Greece, the Philippines, and Nigeria—have practiced for centuries: the siesta, or afternoon nap.

Finally, science is catching up to what these societies have known all along. We’re learning that our brains and bodies really do thrive when we take pause and that napping restores and refreshes in ways no other method can.

Backed by science, these nine benefits of napping should help you release the outdated ideology that paints napping in such a negative light.

1. Beat the Afternoon Slump

Our brains naturally produce a mild spike in melatonin levels in the early-mid afternoon which is an oft-overlooked cause of daytime sleepiness. However, when we are aware of the cyclic nature of our sleep-wake patterns, it’s not surprising that evidence supports early afternoon as the ideal time for reaping the most benefits from napping.[2]

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Instead of slogging along at a snail’s pace, only able to give a fraction of your effort and energy, an afternoon power nap can help you to realign with your body’s natural rhythm. This short investment of time will pay off in spades when you return to your day feeling revitalized and back “in the flow.”

2. Pump up Your Problem-Solving Skills

Harvard sleep researcher Robert Stickgold says napping makes people more effective problem solvers.[3] His research group has shown that taking a nap seems to help people separate important information from extraneous details.

In other words, napping boosts analytical skills and executive functioning, promotes innovative and creative thinking, allows us to be more adaptable and flexible in our thought processes, enhances initiative, and supports resilience.

3. Enhance Brain Function

It’s common practice to rely on coffee to feel alert and focused, especially when we feel sleepy during the day. In fact, caffeine is used by approximately 90% of North Americans every day.

Believe it or not, naps are actually more beneficial and effective than that pot of medium roast, your mocha latte, or even a triple espresso. In contrast to caffeine, napping has been shown to enhance not only alertness and attention but also some forms of memory consolidation. In some cases, caffeine even impaired performance, whereas napping was shown to improve it.[4]

4. Boost Productivity

Tired brains are easily distracted, which leads to a lot of effort expended for little result. A study from the New York Times demonstrates that distraction lowers productivity by a whopping twenty percent![5] If you’ve ever found yourself struggling to stay on task after a night of poor sleep, you have experienced this firsthand.

Research shows that napping can actually counteract the decreased alertness and performance caused by nighttime sleep deprivation.[6]

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Note: It is important to remember that although napping can improve focus and alertness after a bad night’s sleep, relying on this consistently is not advised. If difficulties in falling asleep or staying asleep persist, there may be an underlying sleep disorder that needs to be addressed.

5. Avoid Negative Mindset Traps

It is easy to fall into a trap of negative self-talk when we consider—or succumb to—midday napping, especially if we believe the stigma of “laziness” that our society has associated with rest, breaks, and napping.

Beating ourselves up with “should”s and guilting ourselves out of certain behaviors is damaging not only to our personal empowerment but also to our energy. We can therefore conserve energy by aligning with our body’s natural cycles rather than fighting them.

One vital building block of effective self-leadership is the ability to shut down negative self-talk. By practicing self-acceptance with regard to our mental, emotional, and physiological requirements for rest, we move into constructive thought management, thus enhancing both individual and organizational performance.[7]

6. Connect With Our Intuition

Regardless of our religious or spiritual beliefs, intuition is a faculty of our minds to which we all have access. One of the most well-known scientists of all time, Albert Einstein, said that:

“the intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that has created a servant but has forgotten the gift…. We will not solve the problems of the world from the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

Our intuitive mind taps into our subconscious, allowing us to access what some call our “sixth sense” or a “gut feeling.” It enables us to see the big picture beyond logical reasoning. This ties in with the problem-solving benefits noted in benefit #2, as well as leading to an increase in our self-awareness.

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Stress, lack of sleep, distractions, and refusing ourselves “downtime” are all factors that dim our intuitive light. Napping for brief periods can help us relax into connection with this underrated superpower.

7. Improve Our Health

As mentioned previously, taking a short daytime nap supports the body’s natural rhythms. In doing so, we boost our health by nixing the need for the “band-aid” energy boosters that we crave (e.g. coffee, sugar, simple carbs) but which throw our entire sleep-wake cycle out of whack.

Caffeine is a major culprit in this, especially when consumed later in the day because it blocks adenosine receptors and obstructs our natural circadian rhythm.

Food and drinks containing these substances are often used in an attempt at boosting energy but result in flash-in-the-pan energy bursts that can cause a multitude of health issues including cardiovascular disease, susceptibility to cold and flu, diabetes, weight gain, and depression, to name a few.

Energy quick-fixes aside, it is also known that insufficient sleep itself wreaks havoc on our health by contributing to risks of anxiety, dementia, and stroke. Napping, then, is a much healthier alternative.

8. Relieve Stress

Any time we unplug from the sensory input of our external world, we open ourselves up to a stress-relieving calm and inner peace. Napping is a very obvious way to unplug and helps our brains to process and clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to stress.

Interestingly, falling asleep is not even necessary in order to feel the benefits: the simple act of closing our eyes reduces cognitive load or “brain drain.” In fact, more than 50 percent of the surface of the brain is devoted to processing visual information. [8] When we close our eyes, we literally free up the energy associated with that 50 percent, allowing our brains much-needed recovery and reduction in stress.

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9. Improve Learning

Learning is not limited to our time in grade school. Our personal growth, success, and even happiness are influenced by lifelong learning.[9] [10]

One aspect of learning is the assimilation of new information into our long-term memory banks. After all, what good is learning new information if we are unable to access that knowledge later on?[11]

Several studies and experiments show the learning benefits of napping, demonstrating that it helps transfer newly learned information onto long-term memory.[12][13]

Redefining the Nap

We can easily reap the benefits of napping when we remember that it is not, in fact, lazy.

We can uproot the stigma of break-takers and rebel against that “always-on” attitude that actually leads to reduced productivity, decreased happiness, and yes, even less monetary affluence.

It’s high time our collective mindset of misconceptions catches up to science and embraces the plentiful benefits of napping. Then, and perhaps only then, can we see intentional napping breaks for what they truly are: a power play in our daily schedule, and a critical part of our strategy for living life on purpose.

Featured photo credit: Adrian Swancar via unsplash.com

Reference

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Leah Borski

Certified NeuroHealth Coach, specializing in Stress Management and Integrative Wellness Lifestyle for Work-Life Balance

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Last Updated on March 10, 2021

10 Green Tea Benefits and the Best Way to Drink It

10 Green Tea Benefits and the Best Way to Drink It

Green tea is one of the healthiest beverages you can put in your body. It can help you focus, fight aging, and even give you an energy boost! You’ve probably heard a lot about green tea benefits and how it is loaded with antioxidants and nutrients that are great for your body and mind.

In this article, you will learn about the health benefits of green tea and how you can drink it to enjoy it best (for its taste and benefits).

What Is Green Tea Good for?

Green tea has been used as a medicine for thousands of years. Originating in China but widely used throughout Asia, this beverage has a multitude of uses, from lowering blood pressure to preventing cancer.

The reason that green tea has more health benefits attached to it than black tea is due to the processing. Black tea is processed in a way that allows for oxidation (the same process that makes an apple go from white to brown), whereas green tea’s processing avoids the oxidation process[1]. As a result, green tea retains the maximum amount of antioxidants and poly-phenols, the substances that give green tea its many benefits.

Furthermore, green tea has significantly less caffeine black tea, meaning that it leads to less of a “slump” after drinking it. It will offer you energy without the intense caffeine kick that black tea and coffee often lead to.

Let’s dive more into the various benefits of drinking green tea.

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10 Green Tea Benefits for Your Body and Mind

While a great deal is known about the benefits of green tea, more research is still needed in order to expand our knowledge on just how green tea benefits us. Here are some green tea benefits currently supported by research.

1. Weight Loss

Green tea is known to decrease inflammation in the body, aiding in the weight loss process. More research is needed, but one study found that “the combination of GTE and exercise also produced greater changes in anti‐inflammatory (increases in adiponectin) and metabolic (decreases in hs‐CRP) markers than exercise alone”[2]

If you’re looking to lose weight, exercise is the first step, but adding in green tea can help speed up the process, even if only slightly. Check out this article if you want to find out more about this: Is Drinking Green Tea An Effective Way For Weight Loss?

2. Increased Satiety

One study on how green tea affects insulin levels found that, while green tea had no effect on insulin levels after a meal, it did increase feelings of satiety, which means that study participants were less likely to continue eating[3]. This can have positive effects on health by helping you consume less calories.

3. Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Scientists believe that green tea works on the lining of blood vessels, helping keep them stay relaxed and better able to withstand changes in blood pressure. It may also protect against the formation of clots, which are the primary cause of heart attacks.

One study found that, in general, coffee and certain types of teas (including green tea) reduced the risk of death from cardiovascular disease[4].

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4. Reduce the Risk of Esophageal Cancer

One of the most impressive green tea benefits is that it is thought to reduce the risk of esophageal cancer, but it is also widely thought to kill cancer cells in general without damaging the healthy tissue around them.

In one study, researchers found that the high concentrations of tea polyphenols “have shown inhibitory effects against the development, progress, and growth of carcinogen‐induced tumors in animal models at different organ sites, including the esophagus and lung”[5]. While this kind of research needs to be replicated in more studies, it does suggest that green tea can slow the growth of some types of cancers.

5. Reduce Cholesterol

One literature review looked at 31 trials involving studies on green tea and cholesterol and found that, in general, “green tea intake significantly lowered the total cholesterol”[6]. It specifically seems to target LDL as opposed to HDL, which an important distinction to keep in mind if you’re trying to target a certain type of cholesterol.

6. Delay Effects of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

Green tea is thought to delay the deterioration caused by Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. One research review discovered that “results seem to support the hypothesis that green tea intake might reduce the risk for dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, or cognitive impairment”[7]. However, many more well-designed studies are needed to provide decisive evidence for this.

7. Slow Tooth Decay

The bioactive compounds in tea, like polyphenols-flavonoids-catechins, have antibacterial properties that inhibit not only bacteria but acid production[8]. Research suggests that this is the reason green tea has been shown to prevent cavities and tooth decay. This doesn’t mean you should stop brushing your teeth, but it does mean that green tea can really help when it comes to oral hygiene!

8. Lower Blood Pressure

Regular consumption of green tea is thought to reduce the risk of high blood pressure. One literature review found that several studies concluded that green tea significantly reduces both systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure[9].

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9. Depression

While several studies have shown that a higher consumption of green tea leads to lower levels of depression in elderly individuals, more human trials are needed to determine the way green tea influences depressive symptoms. In one study on mice, green tea polyphenols were shown to have antidepressant-like effects, suggesting that the same could be true in humans[10].

10. Antiviral Properties

Tea catechins are strong antibacterial and antiviral agents that make them effective for treating a variety of infectious diseases[11]. While they may not prevent you from getting a viral infection, they may help reduce their severity, which is a great green tea benefit.

How Much Green Tea Should You Drink?

These are some of the many benefits of green tea, but the reality is one cup of tea a day will not give you all the abundant gains. The jury is out on how many cups are necessary; some say as little as two cups a day while others insist that it’s five cups of green tea for the full benefits. If you are thinking of going down this route, you may want to consider taking a green tea supplement instead.

Potential Risks of Drinking Green Tea

There is caffeine in green tea. If you are sensitive to caffeine, then one cup a day should be your limit. Here’s a way to help you reduce a bit of caffeine in it:

How To Enjoy Green Tea By Reducing Caffeine In It

Green tea also contains tannins, which can decrease the absorption of iron and folic acid. If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, then green tea may not be ideal for you.

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How to Drink Green Tea

The best temperature to brew green tea at is about 185 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have a thermometer, simply let boiling water cool for about two minutes to achieve this temperature. Add the sachet of tea and let it steep for three minutes. You can then remove the sachet and enjoy your tea!

You can also try mixing green tea with other healthy ingredients, such as ginger, a healthy and tasty beverage option.

You can also try matcha, a specific type of green tea that has a thicker texture.

Final Thoughts

Green tea is an ideal beverage for those looking for its delicious flavor, as well as its many health benefits. It’s important to remember that it does contain some caffeine, so it’s best to avoid drinking it about 6 hours before bed. Whether you want to lower your cholesterol, reduce symptoms of depression, or slow tooth decay, green tea can help, so start brewing a cup today!

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Featured photo credit: Matcha & CO via unsplash.com

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