Giving your overworked brain a break with a 20-minute power nap has always seemed to be sage advice. And researchers have been studying the most beneficial methods of napping – when, where, for how long, and so on – for years.
But new research sheds some light on what your brain is actually doing during that brief period of shut-eye. A recent study from Georgetown University Medical Center found that when participants rested in 15-minute periods, the right hemisphere of their brains chattered to itself and to the left hemisphere, while the left hemisphere remained relatively quiet.
What does this mean? In an article in Science Daily, Dr. Andrei Medvedev, an assistant professor at the Center for Function and Molecular Imaging at Georgetown who worked on the research in question, said that the right hemisphere, which is known to be involved with creativity, could be “doing some helpful housecleaning, classifying data, consolidating memories.”
Given the nature of the results, they potentially carry more significant meaning for right-handed people than left-handed people, since righties use their left hemisphere more than their right, and vice versa. That mental breakthrough that occurs right after a nap could be the result of some work by the so-called creative side of the brain.
Jonathan Friedman, M.D., director of the Texas Brain and Spine Institute, told Health magazine that there is growing evidence in favor of napping. According to Dr. Friedman, “Emerging scientific evidence suggests that naps – even very short ones – significantly enhance cognitive function.” He continued, saying, “Increasing understanding of how sleep improves brain function may someday allow us to harness this effect, and the current study may open one of many doors in this regard.”
Of course, it’s not just scientists that believe in the power of napping. According to a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, about 30 percent of respondents reported that they are allowed to take naps at work, and some employers even provide a place for employees to do so. In line with the popularity of napping, this latest research shows that giving your brain a break by napping, like eating well and getting regular exercise, can do wonders for productivity.
For tips on power napping, visit the National Sleep Foundation’s website. Here are some key points found on the site: sleeping for more than 30 minutes can actually be counterproductive; putting a sign on your door notifying colleagues that you can be contacted at a certain time can limit unwanted interruptions; and drinking caffeine right before your nap can give you the extra jolt you need in order to get going when you finish your nap.
What do you think about the power-napping movement? An easy key to productivity, or just an excuse for a midday break? Have any foolproof power napping tips of your own? Share them here.