Recent studies show that napping regularly has an array of health benefits on the mind and body, including heightened awareness and productivity, improved heart function, greater memory retention, and increased creativity.
According to Professor Jim Home from Loughborough University, human beings are actually designed to have two sleeps a day; one in the early afternoon and a long one at night.
The idea that we should sleep in eight-hour chunks is relatively recent. The world’s population sleeps in various and surprising ways. In China, millions of workers nap an hour or so after lunch, and daytime napping is common across all of Europe.
“Emerging scientific evidence suggests that naps — even very short ones — significantly enhance cognitive function,” Jonathan Friedman, M.D., director of the Texas Brain and Spine Institute, in Bryan says. “Increasing understanding of how sleep improves brain function may someday allow us to harness this effect, and the current study may open one of many doors in this regard.”
Napping Increases Brain Power
Dr. Matthew Walker, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, led research efforts that found napping aids in clearing the brain’s temporary storage space, allowing it to receive and retain new information. Thus, researchers suggest that an hour long nap can refresh the mind, restore brain power, and may even make you smarter. “Sleep not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness but, at a neurocognitive level, it moves you beyond where you were before you took a nap,” said Walker.
The hippocampus is the temporary storage compartment for fact-based memories before transferring them to the prefrontal cortex. Walker compares the function of the hippocampus to an email inbox – when it gets full, you need to sleep to clear it out. If you don’t sleep, the inbox will fill up and be unable to receive new emails or information. “It’s just going to bounce until you sleep and move it into another folder,” Walker stated.
Napping and creativity
A recent study, presented at an annual meeting of neuroscientists, monitored the brain activity of 15 at-rest individuals. The findings showed that during rest the left hemisphere of the brain remained relatively quiet, while the right hemisphere, associated with creativity, was stimulated.
“The right side of the brain was better integrated,” said the study’s author, Andrei Medvedev, PhD., assistant professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging.
It is generally thought that the right hemisphere is associated with creative tasks, such as visualization and big picture ideas, whereas the left side is believed to be more analytic and focused on numbers and language.
So, next time you find yourself struggling to focus, or in a creative lull….take a nap. Your next big idea may be a midday snooze away!
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