Napping to Learn

By Frank Tansey, Co-Editor

The last year has been very hectic for me. I am sure many of you might be feeling the same way. For me, I am juggling the release of a large, complex consumer Web site, managing the course development of an online corporate training project, a few presentations both domestic and international, and a smattering of consulting engagements. I am leaving out a bit, including co-editing this newsletter, but you get the idea. All of this has meant lots of long days, 100,000 miles of travel, and a general sense of overload.

Early in this hectic cycle, I came across a reference on a blog to a tool that makes living with this bearable. The tool is Pzizz, and it is a wonderful piece of software that helps me nap. You might think the idea of taking time to nap with so much to do is crazy. However, after living with this program for an extended period, I am going to argue that taking a nap is a great way to get more done. I even believe it is a great way to learn.

A bit about Pzizz. The software generates naps to your specifications from a combination of words, music, and sounds. You can control the mix, but the default settings are just fine for me. Each time a nap is generated, it is doing so from millions of combinations of these three elements. When generating a nap, this means that no two naps are the same. The program uses Neuro Linguistic Programming for the spoken portion, and that enhances the impact on the brain.

For me this is important. As a visual and auditory learner, I retain and consequently imprint information. This is great for retention, but for napping it is exactly the opposite of what I need. I don’t need the imprint which keeps my mind in action with anticipation of the next bit of sound. I need the release that the nap triggers when I don’t know what is coming.

I’ve taken to napping in the afternoon. For me, typically around 2:30 to 3:00 p.m., my brain starts to slow down. Information takes longer to digest, I find myself missing points and sometimes doing things over. As soon as I started taking my naps, my productivity for the rest of the day improved dramatically. I was taking in more information, processing it more effectively and getting my tasks done earlier. On those days when I was “too busy” to nap, I worked longer and harder, but I don’t think I got more done.

My routine is simple – launch Pzizz, select a nap duration, find a comfortable, relaxing position, and nap. Early on, it took a bit more effort to nap. Now, I can feel the relaxation with the beginning sounds of the nap.

One of the small sidelines I mention above is college counseling. I spent over 30 years in college admissions, and I simply love working with students making the transition to college. One theme that comes up repeatedly is the overload many of these students are living with. A high percentage of my clients are taking challenging loads, have lots of activities, and are generally stressed out. They typically tell me about getting to bed at 2 a.m. or later, just trying to keep up with their homework load.

I am constantly telling these students, if you don’t get your rest, you aren’t going to learn. There is plenty of research on this topic, and the students validate that they spend hours on material that would take a fraction of the time when they are rested.

Looking for a student to test the applicability of what I experienced, I selected my daughter, who is currently pursuing her MBA at Cornell. I generated one or two Pzizz 20 minute naps and loaded them on her computer and iPod. I asked her to try taking a break from her hectic schedule to try the naps. Her feedback was very positive, “can you make me some more naps?” She found the nap allowed her to regain her focus, to get more studying done in less time. She was still working hard on her studies, but she was more productive.

You remember my reference to flying 100,000 miles a year; the sleep module is my secret to minimizing the impact of jet lag. I load a new long sleep or two onto my iPod for those international trips and arrive in the new time zone ready for a new day.

As far as I am concerned, I can be a better learner and a more productive individual if I take the time to nap. I think you will find your learning, and that of your students, would benefit from a similar approach.

Pardon me while I take a quick nap and get on to the rest of my to-do list.

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