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7 Nap Hacks for a Better Mid-Day Boost

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Naps are the best! While it's generally frowned upon to nod off at your desk or in class, a nap may actually be the best way to boost your productivity, improve your memory, and reduce stress and anxiety. To round out National Sleep Awareness Week, here are seven tips for making the most out of your mid-afternoon Zs. 

1. NAP WITH DISCRETION.

Before you get too comfortable, keep in mind that napping isn't for everyone. According to the Mayo Clinic, while short naps don’t usually interfere with nighttime sleeping, people who already experience insomnia or can’t sleep well at night can make it worse by napping. The National Sleep Foundation agrees, saying, “Short naps can be helpful for some people, but for others they make it difficult to fall asleep at night.” So nap carefully.

2. SNOOZE IN THE EARLY AFTERNOON.

According to a 2010 study by the University of California, the best time to take a nap is after lunch. The study found that a 90-minute nap in the afternoon allows your brain time to clear short-term memories out from the part of the brain that stores them, making room for new information. "It's as though the e-mail inbox in your hippocampus is full and, until you sleep and clear out those fact e-mails, you're not going to receive any more mail," according to lead researcher Matthew Walker. "It's just going to bounce until you sleep and move it into another folder."

3. GET COZY.

While a power nap might do wonders for you afternoon productivity, it can be tough to find a good place to get some (sanctioned) shut-eye during the workday, especially if you don’t have a private office, break room, or dedicated napping pods. But finding a place that is quiet and dark is very important to taking an effective nap, so wear an eye mask and earplugs if you plan to doze in a shared office space or library. (And definitely get the boss's permission before closing your eyes.)

4. SET AN ALARM. 

Waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle might cause sleep inertia, which may lead to grogginess and sluggishness. Try to take a nap within a set timetable and set an alarm, so you don’t oversleep. Some rules of thumb: Taking a 10 to 20 minute nap will boost your alertness and energy in the middle of the day; since your rapid eye movement (REM) sleep hasn't yet kicked in, it will be easier to get back into work without any grogginess or irritability. Thirty to 60 minute naps have been shown to improve decision-making skills, so they're recommended for students who are studying for an exam. And a 2008 study of 90-minute naps found that the mid-day snooze improved memory

5. COOL DOWN.

Your body temperature falls when you go to sleep, so napping in a cool room can work with your body's natural inclination in order to make you sleepy. The ideal temperature for snoozing is between 60 and 67°F.

6. GEAR UP.

There are a number of smartphone apps that can help you plot out the best time to take a nap. Sleep Cycle Power Nap for iOS allows you to set an alarm for a power nap (20 minutes) or a recovery nap (45 minutes) and uses your phone's built-in accelerometer to track when you fall asleep (and when it's time to wake up). Pzizz for iOS and Android will set the mood with relaxing sounds to help you reduce stress and easily fall asleep.

There are also a few high-tech accessories on the market that will help you take the perfect nap. Napwell is a sleeping mask made especially for taking mid-day naps. It gently wakes you up from a light sleep cycle with interior lights that gradually illuminate, mimicking a sunrise. The Ostrich Pillow might look silly, but it effectively blocks out any light and sounds and offers you a warm, cozy place to rest your head and hands. Light in the Box also offers an inflatable mattress that turns the backseat of your car into an inexpensive napping pod.

7. DRINK COFFEE.

To get an extra boost of energy, drink a cup of coffee before you take a power nap. Really! It takes about 20 minutes for caffeine's energy-boosting effects to kick in, so if you settle down for a short snooze after you down a cup of joe, the caffeine and natural boost will work in conjunction with one another.

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This AI Tool Will Help You Write a Winning Resume
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For job seekers, crafting that perfect resume can be an exercise in frustration. Should you try to be a little conversational? Is your list of past jobs too long? Are there keywords that employers embrace—or resist? Like most human-based tasks, it could probably benefit from a little AI consultation.

Fast Company reports that a new start-up called Leap is prepared to offer exactly that. The project—started by two former Google engineers—promises to provide both potential minions and their bosses better ways to communicate and match job needs to skills. Upload a resume and Leap will begin to make suggestions (via highlighted boxes) on where to snip text, where to emphasize specific skills, and roughly 100 other ways to create a resume that stands out from the pile.

If Leap stopped there, it would be a valuable addition to a professional's toolbox. But the company is taking it a step further, offering to distribute the resume to employers who are looking for the skills and traits specific to that individual. They'll even elaborate on why that person is a good fit for the position being solicited. If the company hires their endorsee, they'll take a recruiter's cut of their first year's wages. (It's free to job seekers.)

Although the service is new, Leap says it's had a 70 percent success rate landing its users an interview. The rest is up to you.

[h/t Fast Company]

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8 Tricks to Help Your Cat and Dog to Get Along
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When people aren’t debating whether cats or dogs are more intelligent, they’re equating them as mortal foes. That’s a stereotype that both cat expert Jackson Galaxy, host of the Animal Planet show My Cat From Hell, and certified dog trainer Zoe Sandor want to break.

Typically, cats are aloof and easily startled, while dogs are gregarious and territorial. This doesn't mean, however, that they can't share the same space—they're just going to need your help. “If cats and dogs are brought up together in a positive, loving, encouraging environment, they’re going to be friends,” Galaxy tells Mental Floss. “Or at the very least, they’ll tolerate each other.”

The duo has teamed up to host a new Animal Planet series, Cat vs. Dog, which airs on Saturdays at 10 p.m. The show chronicles their efforts to help pet owners establish long-lasting peace—if not perfect harmony—among cats and dogs. (Yes, it’s possible.) Gleaned from both TV and off-camera experiences, here are eight tips Galaxy and Sandor say will help improve household relations between Fido and Fluffy.

1. TAKE PERSONALITY—NOT BREED—INTO ACCOUNT.

Contrary to popular belief, certain breeds of cats and dogs don't typically get along better than others. According to Galaxy and Sandor, it’s more important to take their personalities and energy levels into account. If a dog is aggressive and territorial, it won’t be a good fit in a household with a skittish cat. In contrast, an aging dog would hate sharing his space with a rambunctious kitten.

If two animals don’t end up being a personality match, have a backup plan, or consider setting up a household arrangement that keeps them separated for the long term. And if you’re adopting a pet, do your homework and ask its previous owners or shelter if it’s lived with other animals before, or gets along with them.

2. TRAIN YOUR DOG.

To set your dog up for success with cats, teach it to control its impulses, Sandor says. Does it leap across the kitchen when someone drops a cookie, or go on high alert when it sees a squeaky toy? If so, it probably won’t be great with cats right off the bat, since it will likely jump up whenever it spots a feline.

Hold off Fido's face time with Fluffy until the former is trained to stay put. And even then, keep a leash handy during the first several cat-dog meetings.

3. GIVE A CAT ITS OWN TERRITORY BEFORE IT MEETS A DOG.

Cats need a protected space—a “base camp” of sorts—that’s just theirs, Galaxy says. Make this refuge off-limits to the dog, but create safe spaces around the house, too. This way, the cat can confidently navigate shared territory without trouble from its canine sibling.

Since cats are natural climbers, Galaxy recommends taking advantage of your home’s vertical space. Buy tall cat trees, install shelves, or place a cat bed atop a bookcase. This allows your cat to observe the dog from a safe distance, or cross a room without touching the floor.

And while you’re at it, keep dogs away from the litter box. Cats should feel safe while doing their business, plus dogs sometimes (ew) like to snack on cat feces, a bad habit that can cause your pooch to contract intestinal parasites. These worms can cause a slew of health problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia.

Baby gates work in a pinch, but since some dogs are escape artists, prepare for worst-case scenarios by keeping the litter box uncovered and in an open space. That way, the cat won’t be cornered and trapped mid-squat.

4. EXERCISE YOUR DOG'S BODY AND MIND.

“People exercise their dogs probably 20 percent of what they should really be doing,” Sandor says. “It’s really important that their energy is released somewhere else so that they have the ability to slow down their brains and really control themselves when they’re around kitties.”

Dogs also need lots of stimulation. Receiving it in a controlled manner makes them less likely to satisfy it by, say, chasing a cat. For this, Sandor recommends toys, herding-type activities, lure coursing, and high-intensity trick training.

“Instead of just taking a walk, stop and do a sit five times on every block,” she says. “And do direction changes three times on every block, or speed changes two times. It’s about unleashing their herding instincts and prey drive in an appropriate way.”

If you don’t have time for any of these activities, Zoe recommends hiring a dog walker, or enrolling in doggy daycare.

5. LET CATS AND DOGS FOLLOW THEIR NOSES.

In Galaxy's new book, Total Cat Mojo, he says it’s a smart idea to let cats and dogs sniff each other’s bedding and toys before a face-to-face introduction. This way, they can satisfy their curiosity and avoid potential turf battles.

6. PLAN THE FIRST CAT/DOG MEETING CAREFULLY.

Just like humans, cats and dogs have just one good chance to make a great first impression. Luckily, they both love food, which might ultimately help them love each other.

Schedule the first cat-dog meeting during mealtime, but keep the dog on a leash and both animals on opposite sides of a closed door. They won’t see each other, but they will smell each other while chowing down on their respective foods. They’ll begin to associate this smell with food, thus “making it a good thing,” Galaxy says.

Do this every mealtime for several weeks, before slowly introducing visual simulation. Continue feeding the cat and dog separately, but on either side of a dog gate or screen, before finally removing it all together. By this point, “they’re eating side-by-side, pretty much ignoring each other,” Galaxy says. For safety’s sake, continue keeping the dog on a leash until you’re confident it’s safe to take it off (and even then, exercise caution).

7. KEEP THEIR FOOD AND TOYS SEPARATE.

After you've successfully ingratiated the cat and dog using feeding exercises, keep their food bowls separate. “A cat will walk up to the dog bowl—either while the dog’s eating, or in the vicinity—and try to eat out of it,” Galaxy says. “The dog just goes to town on them. You can’t assume that your dog isn’t food-protective or resource-protective.”

To prevent these disastrous mealtime encounters, schedule regular mealtimes for your pets (no free feeding!) and place the bowls in separate areas of the house, or the cat’s dish up on a table or another high spot.

Also, keep a close eye on the cat’s toys—competition over toys can also prompt fighting. “Dogs tend to get really into catnip,” Galaxy says. “My dog loves catnip a whole lot more than my cats do.”

8. CONSIDER RAISING A DOG AND CAT TOGETHER (IF YOU CAN).

Socializing these animals at a young age can be easier than introducing them as adults—pups are easily trainable “sponges” that soak up new information and situations, Sandor says. Plus, dogs are less confident and smaller at this stage in life, allowing the cat to “assume its rightful position at the top of the hierarchy,” she adds.

Remain watchful, though, to ensure everything goes smoothly—especially when the dog hits its rambunctious “teenage” stage before becoming a full-grown dog.

Cat vs. Dog Airs on Saturdays at 10 p.m. on Animal Planet

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