Ever heard someone boast that they could perform complex mathematical equations or solve puzzles in their sleep? Well, it turns out that even if they could, it would not be all that unusual.
An experiment conducted by the Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging at Georgetown University found that subjects exhibited increased activity in the right portion of their brain while asleep. This was the case even if the subject was right-handed, which usually equates with a dominant left brain.
Some writers and artists are known to keep notepads at their bedside, in case inspiration should come to them during the night. But it’s not only creative types who benefit from this approach. A study conducted at the University of Luebeck in Germany presented volunteers with a complex maths problem, and found that the group which had received eight hours of sleep beforehand was three times more likely to solve the problem than the sleep-deprived participants.
There’s even evidence to suggest that the creative thought processes occurring in our brain during rest can bring about significant breakthroughs. Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleyev, for example, claimed to have figured out the Periodic Table whilst in dreamland.
Sleeping on the job – not always a bad thing
People on a tight schedule are not going to have many chances to get the full benefits of sleep. That’s why there is the power nap, which, as the name implies, is geared towards providing some of the benefits of sleep without the lengthy time investment.
Power naps come in different sizes, each designed to fulfill a specific purpose. So, the required duration of your power nap depends on the benefits you’re hoping to get.
- A 10- to 20-minute nap supplies a burst of energy that can keep you going for another few hours.
- A 60-minute nap improves cognitive memory and the ability to recall facts, although regaining full alertness following the nap may take a few minutes.
- A 90-minute nap covers all the phases of sleep, fueling creativity and improving emotional and procedural memory. Since the sleeper has undergone a full cycle, the 90-minute nap is less likely to result in grogginess then the 60-minute version.
Of course, the 10 – 20 minute nap wins when it comes to convenience. It’s easy to set aside that amount of time during the day, and it’s just short enough to provide benefits without any of the detriments that come with sleep inertia. It’s also the most cost-effective of the various naps, providing significant benefits in exchange for minimal investment of time.
That said, a 60- to 90-minute nap is certainly worth it if one can find time for it. Recovery time may vary, but once the initial haziness wears off, the boost to learning and creativity can be pivotal in getting through a heavy workload.
Power napping tips
- Find a comfortable and relatively quiet spot. Some companies provide a place for employees to take power naps during work.
- Turn off your mobile phone.
- Wear headphones to block out noise, and perhaps play some soothing music while you’re at it.
- Dim the lights, or wear sunglasses if that’s not an option.
- Some caffeine before the nap can actually be of assistance, as the effects will only kick in when you wake up. This will make it easier to recover from the nap, as well as enhance its benefits.
- The best time to nap is early afternoon. Napping too late might interfere with sleeping patterns.
- If your nap goes over the 30-minute mark, set aside five minutes after you wake up for the effects of sleep inertia to wear off.
While no amount of power napping is a substitute for regular sleep, it can certainly be a powerful aid to productivity.
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