How Taking Naps Can Improve Your Learning
Napping is not just for babies anymore! Taking naps improves your brain health and reduces the risk of death from heart disease. Follow our 6 tips and make napping part of your daily routine.
Ever spent all night awake to cram for a test? Or skimped on sleep for that all-important presentation?
Well new studies show that you are actually doing your brain a disservice. Turns out that what you really need whether it’s learning or thinking on your feet, is sleep.
In fact, while it’s not news that sleep helps with your memory, new findings show that sleep can restore your ability to learn. Matthew P. Walker, an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley and the study’s lead researcher emphasized that sleep prepares your brain to absorb new information.1
But it’s not just any sleep that does the trick. The real secret? Taking naps.
The University of California, Berkley study took 39 healthy adults and studied their ability to learn and memorize with or without naps. The participants who napped between learning sessions (for 90 minutes) improved their scores by 10 percent while their non-napping counterparts saw scores dropping by 10 percent.2
Now we all know the value of napping when it comes to babies and even young adults, but this study helps us understand that more than just rest, the naps are helping them learn!
But it’s not just babies and children who nap. In fact, Pew Research Center reports that one-third of American adults engage in daily napping.3 Humans are meant to sleep in stages, rather than stretches, so it’s actually natural to nap.4
And to give you more reason to nap, a 2007 study at the University of Athens Medical School, Greece, found that naps reduced the risk of death from heart disease!5
So if naps improve brain health and heart health why isn’t everyone napping?
Well, that one is probably easy to answer if you look at your typical day. Most people who work in an office have no place to nap and even while some forward-thinking companies have “meditation rooms,” the typical work schedule these days hardly seems conducive to taking time out to sleep.
Yet these days, sleep problems seem to be on the rise. Too many people are getting less than the recommended minimum of 7 hour per night.
If more of us valued the health benefits of napping, would we change our routines?
Possibly, but for too long, we’ve put our health behind the goal of achievement at work and there’s no time that pushes people to work even harder or stress more during an economic downturn. But there’s something to remember…while we work hard to pay the bills, it’s when we lose our health that we tend to spend the most trying to get it back again.
Creating Your Sleep or Nap Plan
Creating a plan for better sleep or even to incorporate naps may help you improve job performance. And in fact, may also help you manage your time better because you’ll make smarter decisions when well rested.
While it may not seem at first that taking time out to rest could improve your bottom line, what if you tried it for a week or two, just to see what happens?
Here are some tips to make sleeping and napping work for you:
- Make a schedule – One of the best time management tips is to use a daily planner AND actually put your “to do’s” along with your meetings, on your schedule. Most people put only their meetings on their schedule and keep a separate list of to do’s. This list is usually long and overwhelming, right? How about transferring a manageable amount of your to do’s onto your daily schedule, so that you can manage your day in a way that works for you?
But there’s a hitch: you have to put your nap time into your calendar and actually KEEP the appointment with yourself, no matter what. When someone asks you for that time, let him or her know that “you’re booked,” and schedule another time. There’s no need to tell them you’re napping!
- Think out of the box – If you work in an office, perhaps you could nap in your car during your lunch hour or drive home for a long lunch. As long as you adjust your work hours and meet your deliverables, your co-workers or boss are not likely to care what you’re doing at that time.
If you’re a stay at home mom, what about napping along with your child? You deserve the rest just as much.
- Work smart – We’ve all heard the importance of “working hard,” but that’s a thing of the past these days. With all of the downsizing, there are too few people doing too many jobs. Instead, choose what life coach Jennifer White calls your “power of three” in her book, Work Less, Make More. These are your three top priorities that are most critical for your job performance. Align your tasks with those priorities and focus 80% of your time on them. You’d be surprised at how many people are spending 80% of their time on the things that don’t matter.
The result? When you work smart, you clean up bad work habits and end up with more time!
- Watch your cortisol. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can build up and cause sleep problems. If you can’t sleep, your cortisol may be too high. To learn how to manage this, read: Want to Sleep Better? First, Reduce Your Cortisol Levels then Follow These Six Key Tips.
- Feed Your Adrenals. Adrenal fatigue can contribute to sleep problems too, even if you already feel exhausted. You can nourish your adrenals with healthy foods and habits. Learn more by reading: Adrenal Fatigue: Symptoms & Solutions for this Under-Reported Condition Even Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.
- Set an alarm…but don’t let it jar you awake! Setting an alarm when you nap can help keep your time to the allotted amount. We set alarms to wake us up in the morning for the same reason. But whether napping or sleeping, the stress of waking up to a jarring alarm can be a bad way to start (or restart) your day.
If you cringe when you hear a blaring alarm, then try the Zen Alarm Clock from Now & Zen. This alarm clock gently wakes you with periodic chiming tones so that you never jolt awake again! Use it to wake up naturally in the morning, and set your alarm for your naptime too.
The popularity of health and life coaches are on the rise because they show people how to create win-wins to improve the quality of their lives. If you have a goal, like sleeping more or taking naps, you can always find a way…if you think creatively. And ultimately, there’s nothing more important than your health.
Whether you hire your own life coach or get together with a friend and have a brainstorming session, find a way to improve your sleep or add naps into your day. That extra sleep might have you looking at things in a whole new way.
- Rabin, Roni Caryn. Behavior: Napping Can Prime the Brain for Learning. The New York Times. February 22, 2010.http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/23/health/research/23beha.html?em
- Naps: One-Third of Americans Do It. LiveScience. July 30, 2009. http://www.livescience.com/health/090730-nap-time.html
- Aldridge, Susan, PhD. Taking midday naps may reduce death from heart disease. Health And Age. February 13, 2007.