The science of sleep has been researched and studies for decades. Many (including myself) are desperate to understand the drift from suspension in consciousness. It is no surprise that scientists are discovering that sleep, particularly power napping, provides our bodies with restorative rest, but sleep also improves our memory.

Short Naps and Memory Problems

Anybody who takes a short nap and wakes up refreshed knows that power naps can boost your memory.  Science sleep is now proving short naps actually allows the brain to absorb new information for better mental performance.

The University of California conducted a study where a group of healthy adults were given a difficult learning assignment in the morning.  Half of them were then sent to take a power nap (I wish I was in that group!).  When the tests were repeated, those who took a power nap far outperformed those who did not.

The researchers examined their brain activity and explain that the retention and processing of information is happening in a sleep phase between dreaming sleep and deep sleep referred to as “stage 2 non-rapid eye movement sleep.” There is fascinating series of events that happen during this rest period. Basically, your brain is moving facts from its temporary storage to the area that makes you a power thinker. Fact-based memories move from you short term storage area in the brain to the pre-front cortex, which helps you analyze and think abstractly. It is also associated with memory and gives you the “brain power” to learn and concentrate.

Sleep and Memory 

Harvard University now gives you a “doctor’s note” to excuse yourself and take a power nap.  The studies that Harvard have conducted indicate that burnout can lead to forgetfulness. So, as the day goes by and you find yourself irritated and frustrated, take a short nap to increase your mental performance.  Harvard’s visual computer tests report that the scores of participants worsened

later in the day, but those who had a 30 minute power nap were able to avoid bad results.

Time Limits

A power nap can be defined essentially as a short sleep that ends before you descend into a deep sleep stage, roughly between 20 and 30 minutes. A power nap revitalizes you and boosts your memory, making you feel more alert and in a better mood.  However, if you power nap extends beyond a short period of time, it may actually have the opposite impact and make you feel sluggish and moody.  Then, you may have difficult falling asleep and staying asleep at night.

According to medical experts, most of us experience a sleepy feeling sometime between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. A quick power nap at this time is therefore ideal to boost memory and should not interfere with night sleep.

There is one warning doctors offer.  This is when people are habitual nappers, taking short power naps throughout the day. This can lead to habitual sleeping problems at night, which further complicates forgetfulness and a host of other related health complications.

The bottom line…a short nap is not a replacement for a good night’s sleep.

Sleep science tends to believe that as we age, we experience a reduction in sleep. Unfortunately, we may also experience difficulty learning and forgetfulness as we age. As a result, researchers are now under efforts to determine if the reduction in sleep among the elderly is connected their decrease in mental performance.

They are many around the world who have embraced the refreshing practice of power napping, in places such as Mexico, Spain and the Philippines. For those of us in North America, we often don’t give ourselves the freedom to indulge in a little bit of power napping in the office! But, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who took naps on a regular basis were 37 percent less likely to die from ailments like heart disease.

Medical researchers say few in their field will argue against power naps. They say it short sleep the best approach to restoring your body, mind and memory at the same time.


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