Researchers in Germany gave subjects 90 single words to study. They also assigned 120 unrelated word pairs to memorise. So instead of “milk-cow,” they used “milk-taxi.” This helped give more accurate results, since it eliminated familiarity. Each participant then took a memory recall test.
After finishing the test, half of the participants did this relaxing activity for up to 90 minutes. The others watched a movie. After, they performed a second memory recall test. The results? Subjects who did not watch a movie were five times better at remembering the word pairs. That meant their associative memory improved.
It wasn’t that the movie made one group’s memory worse. It’s that another activity led to a major increase in their cognitive performance. It took even less effort. It’s something we all wish we could do more of. So what’s the simple activity I’m now talking about?
The study found taking a quick nap or siesta sparked activity in the hippocampus which is a small region of the brain that plays a big part in strengthening one’s memory. Researchers saw an increase in what they call ‘sleep spindles’. These bursts of brain activity during sleep help regulate memory consolidation.
Previous research revealed an increase in sleep spindles helped enhance emotional memory, meaning they help you remember things you have an emotional tie to. Things like having your first baby, your wedding anniversary or grandchild’s birthday/christening.
A nap may not fit in to your current nine to five work schedule. Or you may think you’ll feel more tired when you wake up, or that you’ll become less productive. But the health benefits of catching up on more sleep far outweigh any cons. According to Dr. Mednick “napping bathes your brain in the neurotransmitter serotonin which creates a positive outlook”. Napping also gives your brain a chance to rest and your body a chance to heal.
Taking a 20 minute afternoon siesta 8 hours after you wake up will boost your stamina more than sleeping an extra 20 minutes in the morning.
Scientists state that a lack of sleep can double your risk of a heart attack and stroke, and that losing sleep can also lower one’s testosterone by 15%. However, the good news is that getting more sleep may help prevent you from developing Alzheimer’s disease. That’s because your brain uses the time you spend sleeping to flush dangerous toxins from your body. This includes the damaging amyloid-beta plaque – peptides that are crucially involved with this disease.
So when the mid-day fatigue sets in -and if your time-frame permits – lie down for a snooze (even on the grass which helps ground you). Experts suggest a short nap of 20-30 minutes a day can help improve mood, performance, and brainpower without feeling groggy. Naps can also be one of the most powerful tools for self-improvement; they can increase not only our health and well-being but our productivity and intelligence as well. It doesn’t interfere with nighttime sleep either.
For those who already sleep well at night, a nap can take the performance of your body and mind to the next level. A NASA study found that a 40 minute nap increases alertness by 100%. Napping also improves your creativity by both loosening up the ideas in your head and fusing disparate insights together.
History is full of famous nappers. Famous thinkers and leaders like Ronald Reagan, Albert Einstein, JFK, Churchill, Napoleon, and Thomas Edison were all ardent nappers and were known to have valued the extraordinary benefits of an afternoon nap.
So have the best day ever and give yourself permission to take that afternoon nap.