These days, hustle culture has made it nearly impossible to feel productive or worthy when we aren’t ascribing to the ideal of working. We’re first told we have to work on our jobs, then find time to work on our relationships, work on our diets, and work on ourselves. Modern culture has made very little room for resting and has an overriding tendency to pass judgement on those who take time to rest, labeling them and perpetuating the negative mindset that resting equals laziness.
What if what we thought we knew about striving required less work than believed? What if some of the best ways to enhance cognition and performance didn’t actually involve work at all? We found an interesting study from last summer which points us closer towards the concept that you can make gains by simply resting.
The power nap is not a new concept, but it’s been relatively forgotten unless you’re working in a progressive corporate office that carves time out for breaks for napping (some even have break time for yoga these days). Finding a job with that kind of accommodation is rare though; so unless you’re actively participating in the siestas of the Mediterranean/European cultures, you’re probably not getting any power-napping in.
Power naps have the ability to help you come back more refreshed, and frequent breaks are used to help keep mental fatigue at bay. So, what about actually proving that afternoon naps can increase cognitive function in a measurable way?
A study of 2,214 Chinese participants over 60 years old found that afternoon naps not only improved cognitive performance, but the results could even be seen in their blood markers! Adults that napped improved cognitive performance in memory, orientation, and language function: all indications of better mental agility.
If you’re looking to apply this to your own life, beware the amount of time spent napping. The longer the participants napped, the worse the cognitive performance! The optimal time for a nap was about 30 minutes or less and at least four times per week. Naps of this kind were also associated with a decrease of 84% for neurodegeneration!
Simple solutions can make a world of difference. So when you’re tired, instead of struggling against it, challenge your worker mentality to go with the flow and rest. You may just surprise yourself (and your boss) with the quality of work you produce after a nap!
References Cai H, Su N, Li W, et al. Relationship between afternoon napping and cognitive function in the ageing Chinese population. General Psychiatry 2021;34:e100361. doi: 10.1136/gpsych-2020-100361