We’re pretty clear on how important sleep is for our bodies and brains, but research shows that naps actually improve our brain’s day-to-day performance.
Napping can benefit the brain with:
In one study, participants memorized illustrated cards to test their memory strength. After memorizing a set of cards, they had a 40-minute break wherein one group napped and the other stayed awake. After the break both groups were tested on their memory of the cards, and the group who had napped performed better:
Much to the surprise of the researchers, the sleep group performed significantly better, retaining on average 85 percent of the patterns, compared to 60 percent for those who had remained awake.
Apparently, napping actually helps our brain solidify memories:
Research indicates that when a memory is first recorded in the brain — in the hippocampus, to be specific — it’s still “fragile” and easily forgotten, especially if the brain is asked to memorize more things. Napping, it seems, pushes memories to the neocortex, the brain’s “more permanent storage,” preventing them from being “overwritten.”
What happens in the brain during a nap?
Some recent research has found that the right side of the brain is far more active during a nap than the left side, which stays fairly quiet while we’re asleep. Despite the fact that 95 percent of the population is right-handed, with the left side of their brains being the most dominant, the right side is consistently the more active hemisphere during sleep.
So while the left side of our brain takes some time off to relax, the right side is clearing out our temporary storage areas, pushing information into long-term storage and solidifying our memories from the day.
So, you’re not being lazy when taking naps during the day. Having a nap during the day is actually as important as having a good 8-hour sleep at night.
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