NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Short Sleeps, Big Benefits: What a Power Nap Can Do for You

ThinkstockPhotos-530249969.jpgCan you remember preschool when the teacher would turn down the lights and break out the cots? Nap time! You might not have had that exact experience, but as humans we are prone to napping. In our go-go-go life, time is money. To society, sleeping during the day is seen as a luxury that we cannot provide ourselves, and is usually thought of as a sign of laziness.

Unfortunately, napping doesn’t pay the bills. Even so, many physicians as well as wellness-oriented CEOs have championed the idea that a little afternoon snooze is actually beneficial, and can not only provide enough rest to fight off fatigue, but improves your alertness, improves motor learning skills, boosts memory, and enhances creativity (Soong, 2010). Can napping actually make you a better employee at work, give you better results in the gym, or enable you to have a better social life with your family and friends? Yes, in fact, it can! Here is a closer look at napping and its benefits.

What Is the Optimal Nap Length?

First, I’d like to break down naps into two parts. The duration of nap that you are taking will be specific to you, but there is information that gives a good indication that for optimal power naps, 10 to 20 minutes of sleep will provide the best results. Longer naps can make you groggy; this is known as sleep inertia (Dvorsky, 2013). The longer naps, such as a 60- to 90-minute siesta, can put you in a state of REM (otherwise known as our dream state). There are some links to cognitive function associated with longer naps, but the time frame doesn’t always work with our hectic schedules.

When Is the Best Time to Nap?

The second part deals with necessity. Our naps can be planned, in which you know you are going to need extra rest for a long night, so you take a nap. Another would be an emergency nap, where you take a nap because you otherwise would have put yourself in a dangerous situation (think about getting sleepy behind the wheel and then deciding it’s best to pull over at a rest stop for a nap). Then there is the always popular appetitive napping—in other words, taking a nap for the sheer enjoyment of it (Dvorsky, 2013).

What Are the Benefits?

Your health and wellness can benefit from a simple, short nap. At the right length, your nap can provide much-needed alertness, mental capacity, creativity, energy, reduced stress (in turn reducing the risks of heart disease), and more effective learning abilities for children. With all these positives attached to something that can be done quite simply, it’s hard to understand why anyone would not take more naps. For businesses, your employees would be better workers with higher productivity; for teachers, your students would have a better chance of learning; and for you, your overall well-being would be improved. Don’t wait; take a nap TODAY!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: stress Thomas' Corner employee health sleep productivity heart disease wellness naps memory

Healthy Kids: Exercise May Help Improve Grades in School


Remember bringing your report card home, nervously wondering how your parents were going to punish you for the slacking grades? Parents, remember opening that report card and trying to figure out how to help your child realize the importance of doing well in school and punishing them for their low grade? One idea I never heard from my parents was, “Hey let’s give exercise a try and see if it helps to improve their grades!” But it might be just the thing that helps.

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The Evidence Is In: Active Kids Are Better Learners

For years, parents have been struggling to find ways to get their children focused and driven to work hard in the classroom. Being a former coach, I have seen many kids who were motivated to work hard in their sport; but when it came to their studies the motivation seemed to be lacking. Practice would be filled with endless complaints about teachers, too much homework, or the test they had the next day. But there is a lot of research coming out saying that with just 20 minutes a day of physical activity, your child can improve their grades in school.

In a recent study, after just 20 minutes of walking around the playground, kids tested higher on a reading test than the other students who just sat inside and watched TV. Due to the development of brain cells in aerobic exercise, improvements are made in attention, concentration, focus, problem solving, behavior, and memory. So why not help kids do better in school by simply spending just 20 minutes with them doing some sort of physical activity?

Ways to Get Kids Moving

Here are some quick ideas that I came up with to challenge your kids to get out of their pajamas and into action:

Yard games: Have your kids play tag with the other neighborhood children, or maybe a quick round of catch with the football or baseball. If someone has a trampoline, spending 20 minutes jumping on that could be both fun and beneficial. You could also challenge them to a jump-rope contest or send them out to climb around on the swing set.

  • Sports games: Go out and shoot some hoops or challenge them to a little one-on-one. You could grab a soccer ball and kick it around the yard, or maybe go for a light jog together. And who doesn’t like a bike ride around the neighborhood?
  • Inside activities: Try setting up an obstacle course in the basement that makes them climb, run, jump, crawl, etc. If you have a Wii, the Wii Sports program is both fun and challenging, or you can also exercise through dance.
  • Other ideas: Some other things that I thought of would be to walk the dog around the block, rollerblade to school, create a fun circuit that they could go through, take your kids to swim at the local pool, and even try letting them invite a friend along!

Next time you're at NIFS, bring the kids along to take advantage of some of our active family services. With a short, fun workout, you may see your kids’ grades improve! Be creative and find ways that allow you both to get your bodies moving and get your heart rate up. Give it a try with your kids and see how they do!

This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

 

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Topics: staying active education productivity kids

Eat Better, Work Better? Nutrition and Productivity

grainsWe have all heard the phrase that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but who knew that eating a balanced diet would also make you more productive at work? That is what a recent study, conducted by Brigham Young University and published in Population Health Management Journal, found. The study included 19,000 employees from three large companies and showed that employees with unhealthy diets were 66 percent less productive than those who ate whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

So, how can you be a more productive employee? Try these three simple ways to eat a more balanced diet. Then get ready to impress your boss!

Whole-Grain Goodness

Swap out your old rice, pasta, bread, and cereal for grains that are higher in fiber and are less processed. Brown and wild rice are excellent alternatives to white rice. Whole-wheat pasta, couscous, quinoa, millet, and oats are more whole-grain options to incorporate into your diet. When it comes to breads and cereal, check the label. Choose options that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Check out the Whole Grains Council website for more information.

Fabulous Fruits

Most people need three pieces of fruit per day to meet their individual requirements. This can easily be done by incorporating a fruit into your morning cereal or oatmeal, grabbing a piece of fruit for a quick and portable snack, or having a bowl of sweet fruit after dinner for dessert. The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber in fruit are all great reasons to include them in your diet.

Vary Your Veggiesveggies

One of the most challenging food groups to get into your diet, but also one of the best ones for you, is vegetables. It can be difficult to meet that 4 to 5 recommended servings per day, so how can you get these in to help balance your diet? One thing is to make sure that you are spreading them out throughout the day by including a vegetable serving at lunch and snack time. At lunch, grab portable veggies such as baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, mini bell peppers, and sugar-snap peas to add some variety and crunch along with your typical sandwich. Or nibble on veggies with a hummus dip for an afternoon snack. Make it a goal to try one new and different vegetable each week!

Kale has become a popular vegetable choice these days, primarily because of its health benefits. It is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K -- and sulphur-containing phytonutrients. Here are some recipes for enjoying it.

If you are interested in having your questions answered during a personal nutrition consultation, please contact me at ascheetz@nifs.org or 317-274-3432, ext 239. Learn more about Nutrition and Wellness services at NIFS.

This blog was written by Angie Sheetz, NIFS Registered Dietitian. Read more about the NIFS bloggers.

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Topics: nutrition healthy eating employee health workplace wellness productivity