When was the last time, since pre-school, that you enjoyed a nap? I think we determined that being busy isn’t that important, but it is challenging not to fill every waking moment getting things done. If this is the case for you, please accept this mini-mission, and take a nap.
Downtime is different than napping. Napping involves laying down and closing your eyes with the hopes of drifting off to sleep, not just taking time to do nothing. A study earlier this year showed that a quick snooze will not only perk you up, it might make you smarter.
The longer you’re awake, the more difficult it is for your brain to store new information, whether it’s names and faces, the details of a conversation, or your grocery list. An afternoon nap seems to refresh this short-term memory and open your mind for new information, researchers found. This makes total sense to me. I am much sharper in the morning and tend to get a little fuzzy towards the end of the day when it comes to processing new material.
In the study, the researchers asked 39 college students to learn a series of new names and faces at noon and match the faces and names a few minutes later. They then performed the same test at 6 p.m. the same day. A group of students who took a 90-minute afternoon nap at 2 p.m. performed better than non-napping students, who had a serious decline in their memory test scores.
“Why? The part of your brain where short-term information and memories are stored is a bit like your email inbox, says the study’s lead author, Matthew P. Walker, the head of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. “You can only receive so many emails before your inbox starts to bounce,” he says. “When you sleep, essentially what you may be doing is clearing out that inbox to another folder, [so] you have a refreshed capacity to receive new emails.”
While this study’s participants napped for 90 minutes, most of my research suggests a 30 minute nap will do the trick. Longer naps, or naps late in the day can leave you feeling groggy or interupt a good night’s sleep. It’s likely that a quick nap will make you more productive so don’t feel guilty about taking the time.
Close the blinds, curl up with a soft blanket and let your day dreams carry you away to nap land.
For more experiments to simplify your life, read Mini-missions for Simplicity. It’s available on the Amazon Kindle store, but you don’t need a Kindle to read it. Kindle books can also be read using the Free Kindle Reader App for your Web Browser, PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android.