This Is What Happens To Your Brain When You Take A Nap

There’s a reason that the “3 o’clock crash” is a thing recognized by so many people. It’s commonly felt by those who work the standard nine-to-five job.

 You probably know what I’m talking about: you start the day early and by 3 P.M. you’re nodding off, entirely ready for a nap.

Well, as it turns out, napping is something that has been studied and studied. And researchers, including Professor Jim Home of Loughborough University, believe that mankind is actually designed to sleep twice a day; once in the early afternoon, and again for longer at night.

Napping provides a myriad of health benefits. From hormonal maintenance to healthy heart functioning to improved memory and creativity, napping has been seen to help in all of these areas.

Because the eight-hour work day is so new in human history, there are still many countries where napping during the day is common and accepted. As one New York Times article points out:

The idea that we should sleep in eight-hour chunks is relatively recent. The world’s population sleeps in various and surprising ways. Millions of Chinese workers continue to put their heads on their desks for a nap of an hour or so after lunch, for example, and daytime napping is common from India to Spain.

“Emerging scientific evidence suggests that naps — even very short ones — significantly enhance cognitive function,” Jonathan Friedman, M.D., director of the Texas Brain and Spine Institute, says.

“Increasing understanding of how sleep improves brain function may someday allow us to harness this effect, and the current study may open one of many doors in this regard.”

One study set out to see if this information was accurate. 39 healthy young adults were split into two groups: one that would receive nap time, and one that would not. At noon, each group was given a task or problem that forced them to learn a ton of new information. At 2 o’clock, the nap group got to sleep for about an hour and a half. The no-nap group had to stay awake.

Around 6 pm later that evening, new activities and tasks were given to each group.

What did they find? The group that got to nap performed better on the 6 pm learning exercise than those who had to remain awake throughout the day. Furthermore, the nap group actually performed better on the evening exercise than the midday exercise. A find that prompted Dr. Matthew Walker, lead researcher of the study, to suggest that napping helps clear out the brain’s short-term memory storage, making room for the retention of new information.

At an annual meeting of neuroscientists, presented research showing differences in brain activity during rest found that much of the right hemisphere of the brain is stimulated during sleep, while much of the left side remains dormant. Interestingly enough, it is the right side of the brain that is widely believed to be associated with creative tasks.

This information has lead researchers to believe that the right brain ‘cleans up’ and defragments memories as we nap.

So, if you’re a person who has never been too keen on napping (like myself), think about taking time out of your day to rest your eyes and brain, even if only for an hour or so. It might just change your life.