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The 26-minute NASA nap

I rarely nap, but when I do it’s absolutely delicious. To me, there are few things better than a Sunday afternoon couch nap in the sun (perhaps I was a cat in a past life). Yet, sometimes you can wake from a nap feeling just as unrested as when you started, in fact your grogginess level can be worse. Why could a few minutes of zzzz’s lead to such feelings?

In 1995, NASA performed a study to evaluate the benefits of napping in long-flight pilots. Pilots were divided into a Rest Group and a No-Rest Group (yes, very creative names, but you get the picture) and evaluated, over the course of a series of trans-Pacific flights, on their performance and sleepiness level. Pilots in the Rest Group were given a 40-minute window of opportunity to nap as researchers wanted to reduce likelihood of pilots progressing into slow wave sleep (stages 3 & 4; I will explain why later). A whopping 93% were able to nap in the Rest Group, while those in the No-Rest Group were required to maintain normal flight activities during their 40-minute “rest” window. Pilots, on average, fell asleep in 5.6 minutes and slept for 25.8 minutes.

Not surprisingly, pilots in the Rest Group demonstrated a 16 per cent improvement in reaction time and a 34 per cent improvement in concentration relative to the No-Rest Group. Sleepiness, as measured by EEG during the last 90 minutes of the flight, was lower in the Rest-Group with 34 micro-events (physiological changes in EEG waves indicative of micro-sleeps) relative to 120 micro-events in the No-Rest Group. It’s a little frightening to think of our pilots to be this sleepy during their shift, but it isn’t surprising.

Following this study, NASA started to promote the benefits of the 26-minute nap for astronauts and long-flight pilots. Why just 26 minutes? Well, pilots in the Rest Group who slept an average of 26 minutes experienced significant improvements in performance relative to pilots who didn’t. And also because after about 30 minutes of sleep, we typically enter stages 3 & 4 of our sleep cycle, commonly known as deep sleep. Stages 3 & 4 are necessary for physiological recovery (stages 2 and REM are associated with mental and cognitive recovery) and waking from these stages of sleep is often accompanied by feelings of grogginess, fatigue, and a general malaise. The further we get into our sleep cycle (typically 90 minutes in length), the more “painful” it is to awaken.

So next time you are planning an afternoon snooze or a recovery nap, it is recommended that you set your clock for 26 minutes or 90 minutes. If you’re able to do 90 minutes, you’ll achieve one entire sleep cycle and feel ready and rested; however, most of us aren’t able to take a 90 minute snooze at work, so set your clock for 26 minutes and enjoy the benefits of some mid-afternoon zzzz’s .

 

Now you have a legitimate and evidence-based excuse to nap (not that you needed one).

M


Calm: The meditation website

My friend recently introduced me to this incredible website. As I write, I’m listening to and loving the background music. The visuals are also beautiful (but I can’t look while I type).

When you first arrive it appears this is a site of nothing (except beautiful imagery and calming music). Once you move your cursor onto the screen a column appears on the left-hand side offering you the follow options: guided meditation at different intervals, a timer to bring you back to reality after self-guided meditation, the opportunity to download the app on your phone, and information on the site.  I performed the 2 minute meditation and loved it.

I plan to share this site with colleagues, friends, family, and of course, my loyal blog readers (thank you by the way for being so awesome). It’s free. It’s beautiful. It’s user-friendly. What’s not to love?

We are all deserving of peace.

We are all deserving of kindness.

We play an integral role in finding peace and being kind to both ourselves and others.

M


“If your fear is about the non-existent (past/future), your fear is 100% imaginary”

I posted this video over two years ago (very hard to believe), but the message is so profound, I think it important to re-post.

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This video ties in beautifully with my recent focus on mindfulness meditation.

Happy pondering.

M

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