Gain Brain Power with a Nap

Monday 22nd February 2010

An often debated issue is what power a midday nap holds; but recent research shows that by taking a one hour snooze in the middle of your day your brain will be much more ready and able to take on new information. Whilst naps in the middle of the day appear an inconvenience researchers now show that they will not only rejuvenate your mind but help to make you cleverer.

The study was conducted at the University of California and involved an investigation into a group of 39 students. The group was split into two groups; one group was allowed to have a siesta at 2PM for an hour and a half whilst the other group continued with their daily activities.  At 6PM all of the students were then asked to begin completing several tasks set by the researchers, and the results from these activities showed a considerable difference in those who had had the nap and those who hadn’t. Scientists then tested the volunteer’s electrical activity within their brains and believe that the process in which the memory is refreshed is found in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. This is the stage between deep sleep and dreams and we spend, on average, half of our sleeping time in this stage. Lead researcher, Dr Matthew Walker, relates this to the afternoon nap refreshment, describing the hippocampus (short-term memory space in the brain) as an e-mail inbox, and throughout the day this inbox becomes fuller and fuller until you sleep and the brain can process these e-mails into other folders. If you stay awake your inbox becomes that full that no more e-mails will be able to enter. Thus, a midday nap will clear your inbox a little for you to be able to process more information in the afternoon.

Dr Walker comments that the fact that we spend half of our lives in REM sleep anyway isn’t just coincidence. Rather, it is a sophisticated process, which our brains have developed in order to allow us to process vast amounts of information. Worrying, for all those students who think late night cramming is the way to achieve exam success, they may want to reconsider. The test results also showed that an all-nighter actually reduces the storing of information in the brain by a whopping 40%. So, maybe it’s time to hint to your boss that an hour’s nap should be included in your working schedule…

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