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Backed by science, these nine benefits of napping should help you release the outdated ideology that paints napping in such a negative light.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

More by this author

Leah Borski

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

7 Natural Sleep Remedies (Backed by Science) 9 Benefits of Napping (Backed by Science) 3 Common Causes Of Stress That Are Depleting Your Energy 5 Stress Management Techniques That Are Proven To Work 21 Simple Pleasures to Enlighten a Gloomy Day

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

Benefits of Water: Science-Backed Reasons to Stay Hydrated

Benefits of Water: Science-Backed Reasons to Stay Hydrated

You may already be aware that you should drink plenty of water each day, but do you know why? Yes, it’s true that you cannot stay alive for very long without drinking water, but keeping well hydrated is also essential for general day-to-day health and well-being. The benefits of water are endless, and H20 is probably even more important than you already realize.

This article will give you scientific and academically based benefits of water. By the end of this article, you will learn some great reasons to stay hydrated.

The Nutritional Value of Water

In terms of nutrition, plain water contains zero calories. This alone is a great reason to consume more of it.

Unlike almost every other consumable, water is not a source of carbohydrates, protein, or fat.[1] Its only function is to hydrate you, and you can drink plenty of it without worrying about any weight gain.

Often, when you feel hungry, it’s actually your body telling you that you need more water. Instead of reaching for a candy bar, try a glass of water first, and you may find that the hunger soon subsides.

5 Scientific Benefits of Water

Water has so many benefits for your health that it would be impossible to list all of them in this article. However, here are 5 science-backed benefits that water has for your health and why you should always stay properly hydrated.

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1. Keeps You at Peak Performance

Your physical performance can suffer if you don’t drink enough water. In fact, your physical performance can be severely impacted if you lose as little as 2% of your body’s water. The result of this can be things like fatigue, loss of body temperature control, less motivation, and lethargy. Exercise will feel a lot more difficult from a mental and physical perspective in this case.

On the other hand, studies show that a good level of hydration not only prevents the above from happening, but it may even reduce oxidative stress that comes with high intensity activities. This makes sense when you think about the fact that water makes up 80% of muscles.[2] So, stay well hydrated to remain at peak physical condition.

2. Improve Brain Function

Your level of hydration has a big impact on your brain function. Studies show that even a modest level of dehydration of 1-2% (of reduced water in the body) can impair many brain functions.[3] The fact that water can help you maintain focus and a good memory is just one of the many benefits of water.

This was highlighted in a study conducted with young women at the University of Connecticut. The research shows that women who had a fluid loss of 1.36% after exercise suffered from impaired concentration, poor mood, and had more headaches.[4]

A similar study involving young men also shows that a fluid loss of 1.59% increases feelings of fatigue and anxiety, and reduces working memory.

3. Prevent and Treat Headaches

This follows from the previous point that shows how important water is to brain function. Dehydration is usually the root cause of migraines in many people. However, beyond preventing dehydration, new studies show that drinking water can be an effective way of treating and even preventing headaches from happening in the first place.[5]

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4. Deliver Nutrients to Your Body

Although pure water does not contain any nutrients itself, it can absorb some minerals and deliver them to your body, which is one of the best benefits of water.[6] After a workout, water acts to help your muscles recover by delivering the right amount of nutrients at the right time. This is especially important at night as that’s when most of your muscle recovery happens.

Bottled mineral water can sometimes contain healthy minerals that your body needs like sodium, magnesium, and calcium. Just make sure you read the label to learn the exact mineral content of your bottled mineral water.

5. Regulates Body Temperature

Water is excellent at absorbing and transferring heat in your body. In fact, it is the primary way that the human body is able to regulate its temperature.

Water has a relatively high heat capacity, so the water in every cell of your body can work as a shield against sudden temperature changes.[7]This is also the reason why professionals always recommend you drink plenty of water in hot climates.

How Much Water Should You Drink Each Day?

Now that you understand why you should drink more water, the next question is how much you need in order to receive the benefits of water. The Internet is full of uneducated responses regarding the amounts of water you need to keep your body functioning properly, and the most common response is the un-scientific 8 cups a day rule.

However, most scientists and health professionals agree that it’s much better to drink according to your gender, weight, level of physical activity, and climate. Read this article to know how much water you should be drinking each day: How Much Water Should You Drink Each Day (and How Much Is Too Much for You)

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The simple rule of thumb is to drink when you feel thirsty. Your body has evolved complex mechanisms in your brain and body to send signals when your body needs more fluid intake. Learn to listen to your thirst, and you’ll be well on your way to drinking enough water.

How to Drink More Water

After working out how much water you should drink in a day, you might discover that you’re not drinking enough. If this is the case, you will need to find new ways to drink more water each day. For instance, you can eat water-rich fruits, like watermelons, and make new hydration habits, like drinking a cup of water before each meal or carrying a water bottle with you to work.

If you’ve been trying to develop healthy habits like this one but can’t get past your procrastination, check out Lifehack’s Fast-Track Class: No More Procrastination.

If you need help to get you to drink more water, you can also check out the 3 Best Apps To Help You Drink Much More Water.

You can even eat your water from these fruits and vegetables:[8]

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Ways to eat your water

    Conclusion

    Water is essential to a properly functioning body. You should proactively try to keep yourself well hydrated in order to receive the many benefits of water.

    Hydration is not the only benefit of water you will experience from maintaining a good level of daily water intake. Water can help you stay at a peak physical condition, maintain brain function, prevent headaches, and regulate your body temperature.

    Make sure you drink enough water each day to enjoy all the amazing health benefits that water has to offer.

    More on Good Hydration and Nutrition

    Featured photo credit: Nigel Msipa via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Beverage Impacts on Health and Nutrition: The Nutritional Value of Bottled Water
    [2] Sports Medicine: Hydration and Muscular Performance
    [3] The British Journal of Nutrition: Mild dehydration impairs cognitive performance and mood of men
    [4] The Journal of Nutrition: Dehydration Affects Mood In Healthy Young Women
    [5] Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice: Increased water intake to reduce headache: learning from a critical appraisal
    [6] Livestrong: Nutritional Value of Water
    [7] Sciencing: How Does Water Stabilize Temperature?
    [8] Skinny Ms: 21 Ways to Eat Your Water

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