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5 Reasons Why Naps Should Be A Mandatory Part Of Our Day

5 Reasons Why Naps Should Be A Mandatory Part Of Our Day

Though some may claim that naps are a sign that you’re lazy, there is increasing evidence which shows that a quick power nap can actually benefit your health. Whether you’re low on energy during the day, or just feel better when you have some time to yourself, it may be beneficial to let yourself nod off every so often. While you come up with ways to convince your boss to institute nap time, here are five incredible health benefits to fitting in an afternoon snooze.

1. Short Term Energy Boost

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    While those against napping might claim naps make you more drowsy, taking a shorter nap will actually boost your energy and alertness. Next time you feel the need to grab a quick rest, doze off with confidence. Napping too long will have the opposite effect however, and make you feel groggy for hours. To avoid this, aim to sleep for about 20 to 30 minutes in order to get the jump on the rest of your day.

    2. Say Goodbye To Your Daily Hump

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      The normal ups and downs in your energy are largely controlled by chemical systems in the body. Physiological makeup and sleep habits combine to make each of our sleep cycles a little different. However, there is usually a dip in energy in the late afternoon, in addition to an increase in sleepiness towards the evening. In one study looking at naps, caffeine, and exercise, naps were the most effective way to overcome this afternoon dip in energy. 

      3. It’s Natural

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        Humans are among very few mammals to sleep in monophasic sleep cycles. Splitting our day into one period of wakefulness, then one period of sleep is different from 85% of other mammals. These animals sleep on and off throughout the day in short periods, known as polyphasic sleep cycling. It is not clear if a monophasic sleep cycle is human’s natural sleep cycle, so some researchers believe napping may be perfectly natural.

        4. Helps You Work

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          Another way naps may keep you healthy is by warding off dips in performance. Many people experience a continuing decline in ability to focus and perform throughout the day, making them less productive in the afternoon and evenings. To combat this, NASA recently did a study on their pilots. The group who were allowed to nap were 34% more alert in their post nap flights, while the group that didn’t nap struggled more. If NASA’s on board, your campaign for extended lunch breaks might not be that frivolous. More and more, research supports short naps helping you have a more effective day.

          5. Helps Your Heart

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            Cortisol is a chemical our body releases when we’re in stressful situations, but when you sleep, your body release chemicals that balance out Cortisol. Naps aren’t excluded, as a recent study found that a 30 minute nap three times a week made a person 37% less at risk of dying from heart disease. Real world, lasting health benefits are as good a reason as any to take a reprieve from your to do list every once in a while. 

            Featured photo credit: Takashi Hososhima via flickr.com

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            Alicia Prince

            A writer, filmmaker, and artist who shares about lifestyle tips and inspirations on Lifehack.

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            Last Updated on July 17, 2019

            The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

            The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

            What happens in our heads when we set goals?

            Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

            Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

            According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

            Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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            Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

            Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

            The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

            Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

            So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

            Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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            One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

            Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

            Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

            The Neurology of Ownership

            Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

            In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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            But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

            This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

            Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

            The Upshot for Goal-Setters

            So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

            On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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            It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

            On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

            But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

            More About Goals Setting

            Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

            Reference

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