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How a daily power nap boosts memory and aids better learning

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You can finally persuade your boss to let you have that afternoon siesta, as a new study has shown that napping can improve memory. 

The research, published in the journal the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, found that power naps helped people to retain information better. 

Forty-one students were taught 90 words and 120 unrelated word pairs, such as “milk taxi”. After being told this information, half of the participants were allowed to take a nap and the others watched a DVD. However, those who napped were much better at remembering the words when they were tested again. 

Professor Axel Mecklinger, who supervised the study, said: “A short nap at the office or in school is enough to significantly improve learning success. Wherever people are in a learning environment, we should think seriously about the positive effects of sleep. Even a short sleep lasting 45 to 60 minutes produces a five-fold improvement in information retrieval from memory.”

Office nap

But it's not just your brain power that will improve, other studies have shown that a power nap can reduce blood pressure, particularly if a stressful event has occurred.

In a study published in Springer's International Journal of Behavioural Medicine, participants in the experiment were asked to complete a complex mental subtraction sum in order to raise blood pressure. Those who then napped between 45-60 minutes were found to have significantly lower blood pressure rates during the post-activity recovery phase to those who hadn't slept. 

Forty-winks can even prevent obesity, as it can reduce your cortisol levels (your stress hormone). When our cortisol levels are higher, we're more prone to eating badly as it stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism, making us hungrier and more likely to reach for the comfort food. But a quick nap can reduce our stress, meaning we're less likely to put on weight. 

Ostrich pillow

Ostrich pillow

So, what's the optimum time to nap and for how long? The general rule is keeping it to 20 or 30 minutes maximum, which will make you alert once you wake up, as any longer and you end up feeling groggy. 

While many studies suggest that the best time to take your nap is after lunch, between the hours of 1pm-3pm, you can figure it out by listening to your natural body clock, and working out if you're a lark or an owl.

If you're a lark, you wake up around 6am and go to bed around 10pm, so nap time should be around 1pm. However, if you're an owl, and you wake up around 9am naturally and go to bed after midnight, your best nap time is 2.30-3pm. 

Finally, you need a decent place to sleep. If you're at home then you can slumber in comfort, however, the office isn't quite so enticing. But perhaps you could try one of these ostrich pillows, which allows you to nap anywhere, anytime.

You might also like: '10 routine changes that are scientifically proven to help you get a great night's sleep'



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