The Benefits Of An Afternoon Nap

    Mar-30-2010

Are you familiar with the Spanish term 'Viva la siesta' denoting that a nap is essential for a better lifestyle? In fact, a recent research endorses this view and demonstrates that taking a nap in the afternoon may enhance the working of your brain remarkably. It is really unfortunate, that barring the instance of kids it is really difficult to have a regular timetable for afternoon naps in today's hectic urban life. Nevertheless, it would definitely be a very intelligent initiative to have one.

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Nonetheless, a new research conducted by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrates that taking an afternoon nap is very useful for it may enhance as well as reinstate the power of your brain. The researches have said that in addition to invigorating the mind, a sleep schedule that is biphasic or has two phases also makes one more intelligent.

During the course of the study, the researchers observed the sleeping agenda as well as the cerebral performance of a few students of the university. The researchers discovered that individuals who took a nap for about 90 minutes during afternoon felt an increase of about 20 per cent in the working of their brain in comparison to people who did not take a nap. In a new release issued on behalf of the researchers recently, Matthew Walker, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California who was also the principal researcher of the study, stated that sleep is essential for correcting all the wrong things that occur to the brain and the body during the long drawn out period of wakefulness. In addition, sleep also involves the central nervous system and cognitive abilities of an individual taking him or her further than where they were before they took a nap.

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Hence it is not surprising to note that people who experienced insomnia or sleeplessness also displayed remarkable decline in the working of their cognitive abilities. The researchers actually discovered that keeping awake throughout the night or dragging an 'all-nighter' - a widespread habit among student prior to an examination, reduces the aptitude to gain knowledge regarding new things by approximately 40 per cent. Substantiating their view, the researches said that this was basically owing to a blackout of some areas of the brain owing to prolonged sleeplessness.

The brain's memory box is crammed

It has been found that when an individual takes a brief nap, it helps him or her to clean up their brain somewhat. In fact, during this time the brain eliminates the temporary memory stored by it and this help an individual to learn new things and absorb fresh information, Matthew Walker pointed out. Walker as well as other scientists who have been researching on the subject of sleep has been repeatedly saying since 2007 that the brain provisionally stores all data-based memory in the hippocampus (an enclosure of cerebral cortex into the lateral fissure of a cerebral hemisphere resembling the cross section of a sea horse) prior to sending them to the prefrontal cortex of the brain - having a larger memory storage capacity.

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Comparing the hippocampus to the inbox of an email id, Matthew said that it is something akin to the mail box being full and unless you clean it up, you cannot receive or store any new email. Similarly, when the hippocampus is crammed one cannot learn new things or absorb new information unless he or she takes a nap. Taking a sleep helps in moving all temporary memory to 'another folder' of the brain, Matthew explains.

The results of the study undertaken by the researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, also hints that the process of stimulating the memory takes place when people taking naps are actually involved in a particular phase of their sleep. Utilization of trials that compute the electrical actions taking place in the brain helped the researchers to relate the stimulation of the memory facility to Stage 2 non-REM sleep (a phase of sleep distinguished by reduced metabolic goings-on, inhibited breathing and heart rate as well as the absence of dreaming) - a period that occurs between deep sleep (non-REM) and the situation of dreaming, also termed Rapid Eye Movement (REM). Earlier, scientists were not aware of the rationale of this stage of sleep. However, the researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have emphasized that they are now able to comprehend the purpose of this stage of sleep given the fact that we usually spend a minimum of 30 minutes of our sleeping period in this phase - Stage 2 non-REM.

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Stating that sleep is a complicated process, Matthew Walker said that he is unable to envisage that Mother Nature would make us spend half the time of our sleeping period during night to change from one stage to sleep to another without a reason whatsoever. He said that sleep is a very localized phenomenon that provides us with our basic requirements vis-à-vis out mental and physical wellbeing.

It appears that the results of the study undertaken by Matthew and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, recently, hint at the fact that more than the period of sleep, it is the stage of sleep that is important. While the participants in the study by researchers led by Matthew only took brief naps of 90-minute durations, a number of experts on sleep are of the view that even taking a catnap of as brief as 20 minutes or 30 minutes may be enough to revitalize the brain and stimulate it to perform more efficiently. It may be mentioned here that when some people sleep for too long in the afternoon, it often results in lethargy owing to sleep or dizziness. In such situations, people may find it difficult to sleep properly at night as the afternoon nap is likely to get in the way of night-time sleep.

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Earlier studies on the subject of sleep have demonstrated that taking regular naps in the afternoon may help in lowering the risks of death owing to ailments related to the heart by approximately 40 per cent in grown-up people.

Lack of sleep related to Alzheimer's?

Meanwhile Matthew Walker and his research colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, have chalked out their future course of action and the team will probe if the diminishing sleep experienced by people as they age is anyway linked to the decline in their capability to learn new things with the commencement of the aging process. According to Walker, it would not only be a significant achievement if they are able to find any link between the two, but it will also help to comprehend conditions that cause degeneration of the central nervous system - such as the Alzheimer's disease.

Earlier, scientists have already linked lack of sleep or sleep deficiency to enhanced risks of portliness, nervous tension, diabetes as well as the damage of the immune system. In addition, sleep deficiency has also been associated with frustration with life and often resulted in depression or mood swings.

Nippy tips for a fruitful nap

Presented here is a number of useful information that will help you to take a productive afternoon nap that will not only refresh your brain, but also help you keep off a number of health problems mentioned above.

  • Locate a good spot for your productive afternoon nap. Remember, it is always worthwhile to take siesta with your preferred blanket and pillow than just idling away your time sitting somewhere.
  • Select a place for your sweet afternoon siesta where there is minimum clamour, brightness and temperature.
  • Make it a point to take your afternoon siesta at a particular time everyday. In order to ensure that your afternoon nap does not get in the way of your night-time sleep evade taking a siesta excessively late in the day. (It may be noted here that the participants in the study undertaken by Matthew and his colleagues took their afternoon nap at about 2.00 p.m. every day).
  • Before you go to sleep, remember to switch off your cell phone. This is essential because the most fruitful naps are those which are free from all kinds of disturbances and botheration.
  • Do not oversleep during the afternoon. In case you worried that you may sleep too much, set an alarm to wake you up timely.
  • Finally, make sure that you enjoy the afternoon siesta. In case you are not habituated to take a break during the day and feel guilty about sleeping during the afternoon, tell yourself that the nap is not only essential to revitalize your brain, but also useful for your overall wellbeing.
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