The science is in: You need to take more naps
In his latest book, 'When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing', Daniel Pink makes a convincing case for more naps.
Napping is not the first piece of advice that came to mind when purchasing a ticket to listen to author Daniel Pink in conversation with neuroscientist Daniel Levitin. Yet two weeks ago I sat in a small Santa Monica theater listening to the men discuss the benefits of naps. Given the fact that both men are not that much older than me, I shook my head in agreement.
The men were discussing Pink’s latest book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Pink argues that we often ask why something did or did not work out, but rarely do we consider timing. Over the course of 218 pages, he makes a convincing argument. Along with two research assistants, he pored over 700 clinical studies to discover a common trend: the midday trough is not an optimal time to handle serious work.
Pink divides humans into three camps: larks, which make up 14 percent of the population; owls, 21 percent; and third birds, 65 percent. This he measured by the average midpoint of sleep. The predominant number of people hit their midpoint around 4 am, making them third birds.
From these data, Pink devised a schedule: do your analytic tasks in the morning and insight tasks later in the afternoon and evening. And do not perform either during midday. That’s the time for administrative work, tasks not requiring creative problem solving or deep insights. While exact times vary from person to person, Pink’s outlook is based on circadian rhythms, which affect us to a degree few recognize.
Which is why Pink is now an advocate for napping, what he calls “Zambonis for our brains.” A former nap skeptic, he now believes that naps “smooth out the nicks, scuffs, and scratches a typical day has left on our mental ice.” Among the studies he covers:
- Nappers outperform non-nappers in retaining information
- Nappers are twice as likely to solve complex problems than non-nappers
- Napping boosts short-term memory and associative memory
- A nap bestows many benefits, including mood, alertness, and cognitive performance
- Napping strengthens your immune system and can reduce your blood pressure
- Napping increases the likelihood you’ll achieve a flow state
- A study of over 23,000 Greeks discovered that nappers experienced a 37 percent decrease in the likelihood they’ll die from heart disease
- Naps increase alertness in air traffic controllers
- Italian police officers who nap before evening shifts have 48 percent fewer traffic accidents than non-nappers
Duration matters. The ideal nap is 10 to 20 minutes long. After 20, sleep inertia sets in—you wake up groggy and confused. Hit an hour and your recovery time will be like waking up from a long slumber.
Interestingly, there’s even a coffee nap hack. I’ve done this inadvertently and can anecdotally confirm its benefits. Since caffeine takes 25 minutes to enter your bloodstream, drinking coffee and then taking a 20-minute nap—Pink calls it a “nappuccino”—lets you get the nap boost and the coffee lift. This technique has been shown to reduce sleepiness and improve performance.
Pink concludes by calling for a return to the siesta. In an attempt to compete with other nations, Spain eliminated it a decade ago. In some ways, Pink’s entire book can be summed up in this example: by trying to improve performance, the government took the exact opposite route to achieving such. Instead of pulling other nations to their side, Spain abandoned a longtime practice with a positive track record.
A man takes a nap after drinking a coffee inside a Starbucks in Beijing on June 28, 2017. (Photo by Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images)
Pink reminds us of our own cultural attitude. At the time when Spain was eliminating sanctioned midday rest, Americans boasted about getting by on only four hours sleep. Then a library’s worth of research on sleep was published. We went from calling that person a hero to a fool. Instead of getting work done, he was likely performing at a subpar level while risking the safety of others.
We are in need of many shifts. For all the accolades we award ourselves for technological innovation, we’ve taken a dozen backward in our diets, movement patterns, social relationships, and sleep. Churning out content and pushing files across networks does not make for a fulfilling life. Living a healthy life means we’re imbued with a sense of meaning, which is hard to feel when constantly exhausted.
As with most things, humans are more reactive than proactive. We don’t change our diets until organs fail. We don’t exercise until our body feels so foreign that we realize we have no clue how to control our limbs. And we don’t sleep until unconscious processes are so compromised that our body rebels in the form of disease and discomfort. Even then we still refuse, so deeply embedded are habits of behavior, no matter how toxic.
Which is a shame. A healthy mind and a healthy body are not separate processes. They’re part of the same phenomenon—the process of being. We might bathe ourselves in electric light late into the night and think it an advance, but there’s a quarter-million years of evolutionary history that put us to sleep when the sun set and woke us up on its return. The midday sun was the worst, so our ancestors took cover and… napped. We can fight history but we can’t escape it. It made us. Honoring that rhythm is only to our benefit.
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.
Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
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