Brain fried? Memory troubles? Take a nap!

Taking a nap might just be the smartest thing you can do for your brain. So say Alex Mecklinger and his colleagues, who produced significant results when they conducted a study on napping published in the journal, Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.

The researchers found that even a short sleep lasting 45 to 60 minutes improved information retrieval from memory five-fold!

It was quite a simple experiment: participants studied single words and word pairs, and were tested straight away to see how much they had learned. Then, one group napped and the other watched a DVD, and they were re-tested. The group that slept aced the test. The group that watched DVDs … not so much.

Research from the University of California says that napping can also help learning. A study presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science in 2010 got participants to perform an intense learning activity. Again, they were split into two groups, with one sleeping for an hour and a half, and the other staying awake. They were put through another intense learning exercise, approximately six hours after the first one.

The group that stayed awake were worse at learning the new material than on the previous task. And the group that slept not only outperformed their peers who stayed awake: they even improved their learning ability.

If an hour and half of sleep seems like a pipe dream – or only achievable on a Sunday afternoon – then be sure to read the tip below.

So what, now what?

Unless you live in a country that promotes daily siestas, not everyone has time to build that kind of nap habit into their day. But even a quick 10 to 30 minute nap can improve both your energy and alertness. And even if you can’t power down enough to actually fall asleep in that time, it’s a great opportunity to practise some mindfulness or meditation.