| 03.18.2018

Naps aren’t just for children

The art of the 10-minute nap


When I was a child, I loved taking naps. It was always such a refreshing part of the day, and I would awake full of excitement because the day wasn’t over.

Many of us were required to take naps as children, but as soon as we received a choice in the matter we chose to neglect naps. As adults, we seem to no longer place value on naps. We either don’t have time for napping, or it feels too childish.

The one time we will take naps is the day after we pull an all-nighter. We wait until we’re utterly exhausted to take a nap.

When I moved to Moscow and transferred to the University of Idaho in 2016, I started experimenting with different daily lifestyle changes and routines. This was my first time moving out of the house, so I felt like it was a good time to determine how I could live a healthier and more sustainable life. One of those experiments involved taking naps. So, I started taking mid-day naps.

I discovered that if I took naps longer than 20 minutes I would feel groggy, but if I took a 10-minute nap, I would feel great. And sometimes those 10 minutes would feel like hours.

These 10-minute naps often result in not falling completely asleep, but they allow you to enter this zone of relaxation where your mind can daydream and process information and memories.

When we aren’t doing anything, the default mode network of our brains gets more active.

When this network is active, our brains do a kind of processing different from the processing during an activity or task.

Andrew Brand | Argonaut

Marcus Raichle, a neurologist, radiologist and professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, said the default mode network deals with our perception of ourselves and episodic memory.

“These memories are our personal experiences, associated with a certain time and place, such as what did I have for breakfast today? Where was I yesterday evening? Episodic memory is a special thing,” Raichle said. “It is very personal and very self-relevant. It integrates memories from our lives in a self-relevant way. This may be the essence of the default mode network.”

Even if you just turn on some relaxing music, lay down for 10 minutes and let your mind wander — your brain is actually doing some essential processing. Napping is not only incredibly relaxing, it’s good for you.

“Normal mind-wandering serves important functions. Many researchers believe that creativity is associated with daydreaming or spontaneous thoughts about interesting problems,” Raichle said.

It’s good to daydream and it’s good to take breaks, so why not incorporate a 10-minute nap into your daily routine? I have found myself with an extra boost of energy and an increased mental clarity after these 10-minute naps. And even if you are one of the busiest people in the world, you can totally find an extra 10 minutes every day.

And, don’t forget to get adequate sleep every night. That’s important too.

Andrew Brand can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu

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