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Why you should really take a nap this afternoon, according to science - The Week

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Eric Barker is right. Naps make us more effective.

Less than 3 percent of people are actually 100 percent on less than eight hours a night. But you feel fine, you say? That's the fascinating thing about chronic sleep debt. Research shows you don't notice it — even as you keep messing things up. In her TED talk, Sara Mednick, author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life, gives the rundown:

Now here's the part you've probably never heard:

Eight hours might not even be enough. Give people 10 hours and they perform even better.

Timothy Roehrs and Thomas Roth at the Sleep Disorders Research Center of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, have demonstrated that alertness significantly increases when eight-hour sleepers who claim to be well rested get an additional two hours of sleep. Energy, vigilance, and the ability to effectively process information are all enhanced, as are critical thinking skills and creativity. [Power Sleep]

I know what you're thinking: 10 hours a night? I don't have time for that. I barely have time to read this post. Is there a compromise? Naps. Can closing your eyes for a few minutes really make that much of a difference? Keep reading.

NASA says you should sleep on the job

Research shows naps increase performance. NASA found pilots who take a 25 minute nap are 35 percent more alert and twice as focused.

Research by NASA revealed that pilots who take a 25-minute nap in the cockpit — hopefully with a co-pilot taking over the controls — are subsequently 35 percent more alert, and twice as focused, than their non-napping colleagues. [Night School]

Little siestas helped people across a whole host of measures. Improved reaction time, fewer errors…

NASA found that naps made you smarter — even in the absence of a good night's sleep.

If you can't get in a full night's sleep, you can still improve the ability of your brain to synthesize new information by taking a nap. In a study funded by NASA, David Dinges, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and a team of researchers found that letting astronauts sleep for as little as 15 minutes markedly improved their cognitive performance, even when the nap didn't lead to an increase in alertness or the ability to pay more attention to a boring task. [Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep]

Study after study has shown naps boost learning.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that napping for ninety minutes improved memory scores by 10 percent, while skipping a nap made them decline by 10 percent. [The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills]

And naps make you happier. Studies show we can process negative thoughts quite well when we're exhausted — just not the happy ones.

Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories get processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine. [NurtureShock]

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