Caught napping?

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Do you sometimes wake up feeling tired? There’s a lot of scientific interest today in the mechanics and benefits of how we sleep. Researchers are asking if we get enough hours of rest and, more importantly, what happens to us when we don’t get enough sleep. The results are intriguing. Apart from the obvious feelings of fatigue, impatience and difficulty in concentrating, a lack of sleep seriously harms our efficiency. We don’t think clearly or creatively when we’re tired and we make far more mistakes. A tired driver is as dangerous as a driver who’s consumed alcohol. But some of the most recent research in the field of neuroscience suggests that taking a nap in the afternoon can work wonders to restore our ability to think clearly. Far from being a habit associated with older age and heavy lunches, it seems our brains really do need down time to process data, flush toxins and recuperate. A twenty-six minute snooze can restore optimal functioning to the brain, especially when it’s being used for complex reasoning and analytical purposes. The most revealing research was conducted with NASA test pilots who displayed much better cognitive function after a nap than they did without a mid-afternoon snooze. Images of President Lyndon Johnson getting into his pyjamas every afternoon for his celebrated ‘power nap’ spring to mind but the findings amongst neuroscientists and sleep researchers all highlight the benefits of a well-timed nap.
The other revelation from researchers is that we all seem to benefit enormously from exercise. Humans evolved to be on the move and this applies as much today as it did fifty thousand years ago. Our brains reflect our origins on the wide open savannahs of Africa where our ancestors were constantly on the move, looking for food and water and resources. If we move our bodies every day, our brain function improves too. It’s how we evolved.
So if you take a little time to move your body, the results can be truly spectacular. And if you can make time for a short ‘power nap’, there’ll be less risk of you nodding off during one of those interminable afternoon meetings where everyone struggles to stay awake. A definite advantage for your career prospects!
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