How Power Naps Can Make You Smarter

September 7, 2017

11:30 am

Thomas Edison slept three to four hours a day, former President Clinton grabbed five to six and even Jay Leno got five hours of sleep per night according to research by Dr. James Mass, et al. While the majority of individuals can’t fully function on that little of sleep, people in the US are more sleep deprived than ever.

Sleep research shows that Americans on average are getting seven hours per night, and one third of our population is sleeping less than six hours each night. To offset sleep deprivation, most people turn to caffeinated or sugary drinks to wake up the brain fog, but that’s temporary. So what is the best way to recharge your battery without the sugar crashes from that 3:00 p.m. donut? Power naps.

This is Your Brain on Sleep Deprivation

Albert Einstein was the master of sleeping a few hours at night and filling in the gaps with micro-naps – he ended up sleeping an average of 10 hours a day. It was after these power naps that his most innovative ideas came to light.

According to Stuart Fogel, a neuroscientist at the University of Ottawa, it is during these non-REM sleep cycles that certain areas in our brain become highly active, process our thoughts and generate solutions.

“…the thalamus and the cortex [the brain’s surface]…are the areas which support the ability to solve problems and apply logic in new situations,” Fogel said.

Matthew Walker, an assistant professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, found that short afternoon naps can improve your ability to retain information and increase learning. Like to your smartphone, turning your brain off and on gives your mind the ability to reboot and clean out the junk to make room for new information. Another side effect of short naps include an increase in energy and alertness.

“It’s as though the e-mail inbox in your hippocampus is full and, until you sleep and clear out those fact e-mails, you’re not going to receive any more mail. It’s just going to bounce until you sleep and move it into another folder,” Walker said.

According to experts, 10 to 20 minute naps should do the trick, if you don’t wake up in that 30-60 minute range, you could risk grogginess as your brain will enter a full sleep cycle.

So don’t feel bad giving your brain a quick time out, in the end you’ll be the one coming up with the genius ideas.

Read more about improving your sleep at TechCo

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Tishin is a technology journalist and correspondent. She has written for TechCrunch, Demand Studios and Fitness, and has regular network segments on local Phoenix affiliate stations. She holds a Master's degree in Clinical and Sport psychology, and has covered many areas of technology ranging from 3D printing and game development to neurotech and funding for over 15 years.