The Power of Napping: Boosting Memory, Health, and Productivity
What do Leonardo da Vinci, Winston Churchill, Morgan Freeman and Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte have in common? They are (or were) all habitual nappers! In fact, recent research suggests that taking a mid-afternoon snooze isn’t just for your grandma anymore. It can dramatically boost your memory, increase cognitive function, and develop your overall alertness.
The science behind napping
A research team led by Alex Mecklinger conducted a controlled experiment with 41 participants, measuring their ability to memorize 90 single words and 120 unrelated word pairs. After learning the words, half of the participants were given a one-hour nap, while the other half were told to watch a DVD. The results showed that the nappers performed considerably better at recalling the words. In fact, they experienced a fivefold memory boost over the non-nappers!
But the benefits of napping don’t stop at memory improvement. According to a 2007 study, a midday nap can lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease. Additionally, it makes you more productive and alert by allowing your body, mind, and soul to return to alignment, essentially pushing the reset button on your day.
How it works
A nap of up to 60 minutes allows you to enter into slow wave sleep, the deep state before you start dreaming. It’s during this time that your brain works on removing toxic byproducts while strengthening synaptic connections, cementing new memories and securing recent thought processes. As you enter this period of sleep, your heart rate and breathing slow down, and your blood pressure drops. This gentle relaxation allows your heart, liver, and digestive system to subtly adapt their routines toward stabilization and recovery. Plus, your body produces less adrenaline and cools down a couple of degrees, helping it to produce and release specific growth hormones that aid in muscle repair and cell restoration.
Mastering the nap
Now that we understand a bit more of the science behind the nap, how should we get on and do it? First, it is advised to nap between 20 to 30 minutes according to the National Sleep Foundation or up to 60 minutes according to the Saarland University study. Next, create a warm, comfortable, and distraction-free space for your nap, as bright lights tell your brain that it’s supposed to be awake, so consider closing your curtains and shutting off your computer. It’s important not to mess up the rest of your sleep cycle, so keep your nap consistent and near the middle of your day. Lastly, waking up is a big deal, and it’s better to wake up gradually using a gradual alarm clock or phone app that brightens up the space around you gradually.
The underestimated nap
This little afternoon habit could greatly increase your productivity and even add years to your life. By taking a midday nap, you can boost your memory, lower your blood pressure, and improve your overall productivity and alertness. So don’t underestimate the power of a nap; it might just be what you need to get through the day with ease.