Posts Tagged ‘Improving Perfomance’

More on Cat-Napping: Rested Brains, Smart Ideas!

October 14, 2008

The Platform: Brain Rules by John Medina, Ph.D.

The Twitter: Catch some ZZZZZs!

The Big Idea: Become a Neuro-Leader: Provide 20 minute, afternoon brain rest periods for your students, workers or colleagues!

…. Picking up on my sleeping pod commentary, I wish to reinforce the idea of catching some “zzzzs” as an antidote to the rise in stress these days and add an important point: Whether or not you have access to a sleeping pod, practice Neuro-Leadership by creating structures within your institution to allow for “brain time outsFollowing brain development specialist John Medina, getting enough sleep earns its place as Brain Rule #7 in his 12 Brain Rules. Rule #8? “Stressed Brains Don’t Learn the Same Way.”

As Medina notes on his own website: “Your brain is built to deal with stress that lasts about 30 seconds. The brain is not designed for long term stress when you feel like you have no control.”

Drawing an evolutionary comparison between facing a predatory saber-toothed tigers and your boss or a bad marriage, Medina pinpoints the effect: “You can actually watch the brain shrink.”

Shrinking brains might sound great as a 5th grade science project but for brains on fire from stock market quakes to the prospect of reorganizing a new world order, an expansive brain sounds more like what the doctor ordered. Medina’s prescription for avoiding chronic stress? Sleep well, think well and take an afternoon nap to improve mental and physical performance.

For years, I have manuevered around an academic schedule, eeking out 20 minutes of meditation before the start of a 4 p.m. seminar. My method: hit the steam baths and “work out” before class. Days without class, I schedule in an afternoon yoga nidra session.

What is yoga nidra? Simply put, yoga nidra is an ancient technology of deep relaxation, often referred to as “waking sleep.” It is one of the more beautiful restorative practices from the hatha yoga tradition, enabling rest while staying conscious at a subtle and quiet level of awareness. Significant neuroscientific studies of yogic meditation date back to the late 1960’s and today, the National Institute of Health within the U.S. is devoting research interest in the physiological and neuroscientific effects of yoga. It is worth noting that yoga nidra was included in the roster of week long yoga symposium topics covered at NIH in May 2008.

While Medina does address yoga nidra per se, he does emphasize the need for down time, a chance to enter the “Nap Zone” – that period during the hour of 2-3 in the afternoon, when as he says, “It’s deadly to give a lecture. More car accidents happen. Memory, attention and problem-solving suffer.” What accounts for the brain degrade? Charting the syncopated relations of ciradian and homeostatic sleep rhythms in our brain/body, Medina highlights the intersection — a crossroads that beckons the sleep.

Forget the candy bar or latte. Grab your yoga mat, your office sofa or place first dips on the new sleeping pod at work to re-calibrate your innate biological clock and set sparks to a new idea!

And as always breath be with you!

Dr. G.