My TEDx talk ‘Indulge Your Neurobiology’

My TEDx talk, Indulge Your Neurobiology

Here it is: My TEDx Northern Sydney Institute talk ‘Indulge Your Neurobiology‘.

In my talk I share my brain hack to improve memory, spark creativity, and regulate emotions. I discovered this life-changing tool when I left the neuroscience research lab behind and starting focussing on brain health and wellbeing in everyday life.

You won’t need an app, course or guru to learn this technique … simply learn to respect and then indulge your neurobiology!



Once you’ve watched – I’d love for you to do two things:

1. Please SHARE fare and wide (no more napping guilt!!).

2. Leave me a comment, I’d LOVE your thoughts on whether you’ll choose to indulge!


Share the love


  1. Maria on June 3, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    Loved this Sarah – reminds me of the Italian ritual of having a break after lunch – nap if they like but quiet time. Yep such a good practice.

    Thank you for highlighting the need to take a break – it is so cool.

    Loved listening Sarah – you are brilliant and practical at the same time – inspiring xx

  2. Julie on June 3, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Hi Sarah,

    That was really fantastic. I know from experience when in times of stress my body craves for that afternoon nap. Clearly the brain is trying to cope with the incessant chatting of the mind. Most of us just push through rather than give in to what the body wants. Instead we grab another coffee and fear taking any time out from being busy. Napping pods should be mandatory in all 21st century work places. Bring on the siesta!!

    Congratulations on your TEDX talk. You should be very proud.


  3. Lucy on June 3, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    just by chance came across your TEDTalk… I was discussing this very topic while on holiday recent in Spain with my StepFather who ALWAYS takes a nap each day around 5.30 forvlongercrhan 20 minutes but he says it restores him completely. He is retired now. Ithankyou for this wonderful talk from all your wisdom and learnings. Am going to start doing that myself from today. It’s also about allowing and giving ourselves permission to actually do this. I also wonder whether it would also gave an effect on our emotional eating as when I am tired I do reach for something sugary it a carb. Food indeed for thought. Thanks Sarah… You talk well on stage and I really enjoyed it and learnt loads

  4. Bev on June 3, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    I have been a napper for years and am so glad to learn that it helps to improve our memory. I really enjoyed your talk Sarah as I find meditation really challenging! I think I will stick to a nap now 🙂

  5. Clare Greig on June 3, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    I love this Sarah. Especially the part of creativity. The creative insights – aha moments. I tend to meditate for 20 minutes which as you say has the same outcome. You are a fabulous speaker. Well done you!

  6. Annie on June 3, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    I ran my own consultancy firm back in 2000 – 2005 and when I was setting it up I considered what piece of furniture I should purchase which would be best for my afternoon nap! In the end the space didn’t allow for it. But instead, I was able to go home most days for a quick lunch and a quick nap. Just 15-20 minutes would completely revitalize me. Thanks for providing the science behind something I used to do intuitively and which is so life affirming and healthy. I must pick up the habit again.

  7. Sue Halloran on June 3, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    Great poise, great presentation, Sarah and a subject close to my heart. Fortunately I’ve never had to be a closet-napper. I’m pretty sure I started napping at about 6 years of age and am still at it 50 years later! Have hardly missed a day.

  8. Steph on June 4, 2015 at 1:22 am

    Sarah, I had a SAH some years ago and the need to nap frequently was a crucial part of my recovery and I learnt my injured brain literally couldn’t function without naps at all and some three years on I now to include several ‘take break’ moment in my day and often an afternoon short nap, these moments bring a complete moment of stillness and quiet and helps me recharge my dented neurons and freedom to keep thinking at the pace I want to. Listen to your brain. It knows you best.

  9. John Mekrut on June 4, 2015 at 2:12 am

    Great job Sarah! I’m a napper myself so I completely agree with you. Sleep deficit is responsible for many problems from obesity to heart attacks. We need to take better care of ourselves without the guilt.

  10. Emma on June 4, 2015 at 4:55 am

    Hi Sarah, Loved the talk. A big fan of the nap – as long as time allows! Great to see you up at TED. You did a fantastic job.


  11. Michelle on June 4, 2015 at 6:42 am

    Thank you for this talk. Very interesting! I’m wondering if I’ll even be able to fall asleep for 20 minutes and if I am successful at taking a nap, whether it’ll be harder for me to fall asleep at night.
    I’ll try it this week 🙂
    Thank you!

    • Sarah McKay on June 4, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      They key is to take the nap at the peak of afternoon sleepiness. I haven’t had a nap today because I haven’t had that ‘urge’ … if you need it, take it (if you’re able). But don’t force the sleep on yourself. If you stick to 20 minutes the research shows it doesn’t impact night sleep. Longer naps WILL impact night sleep…. stick to 20 mins.

  12. Victoria on June 4, 2015 at 8:31 am

    Hi Sarah, thank you for the fantastic talk! It’s very pleasing to see this such a valuable idea spreading. My mom has been always having afternoon naps and taught me to do so, so it is wonderful to know it has been backed up by data so I can talk to my boss convincingly 😉 and stat fulfilling my urges.
    What I really want to know more about from the perspective of Neuroscience, what is the evidence behind 20-25 minutes, what brain waves are involved, is it the hypnagogic state that is being activated and hence the benefits of problem solving and creativity?

    • Sarah McKay on June 4, 2015 at 2:42 pm

      The evidence for 20 mins comes from a few studies. One done by NASA on pilots and they found the cognitive benefits occurred in this short time window. Other work is done on stages of sleep – one sleep cycle is about 45 mins (how long it takes to fall into deep sleep, then drift back into REM sleep). You want to avoid deep sleep when power napping. Unless you’re need restorative/recovery sleep…then go longer. But not as easy to fit into the day!

  13. Glenyss Barnham on June 4, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Hi Sarah

    Thank you for a truly inspiring talk – challenging and helpful as I often feel guilty taking an afternoon nap.
    Just one question – how do you make sure you sleep for 20 minutes and not go into that deep sleep? If I set my alarm I wake with a jerk and feel that groggy feeling.

    • Sarah McKay on June 4, 2015 at 2:39 pm

      You’ll need to set an alarm to make sure you don’t sleep too long … the key is to learn how long it takes to fall asleep too and setting up your alarm appropriately. If it takes 15 mins to sleep you want more than 5 mins. Good luck.

  14. Kathleen Buchanan on June 4, 2015 at 9:39 am

    Sarah – this was fantastic! The topic is near and dear to me: I have space in my office where I teach private yoga, and I have been known to utilize my props for a delicious restorative pose in the early afternoons. It feels like such an indulgence at times, but it’s always worth it.

    • Sarah McKay on June 4, 2015 at 2:38 pm

      It IS an indulgence isn’t it. Glad you’ve enjoyed it.

  15. Carl on June 4, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    Sarah, A great talk. I find it interesting how much better accepted it is in a number of Asian countries to nap at the desk, (although I am not sure how the team would adjust to me snoring mid afternoon).

  16. Ari on June 4, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    Great talk, Sarah, and some lessons to take from it. Penny and both girls still love weekend naps; I need to get better at taking them or just being! Might get in touch as think there could be a link here with school that could be fostered too. Well done again and hope you, Geoff and the boys are well.

    • Sarah McKay on June 8, 2015 at 5:54 am

      Enjoy napping this long weekend too 🙂

  17. Romi Gray on June 5, 2015 at 9:15 am

    I really enjoyed your talk Sarah. You must be thrilled with how it went. I loved your clear and attention holding style of delivery.
    I will try the nap again, as you have inspired me. I used to try them but they made me feel even groggier than before I started, and they were only 15 mins. I will let you know how my 20 minute ones go.
    Very proud of you. Love R xx

    • Sarah McKay on June 8, 2015 at 5:52 am

      Yes I’m thrilled (well, I had a ball on the day, not brave enough to watch the video yet!). Go forth and nap sister!

  18. Deane Alban on June 8, 2015 at 7:10 am

    Sarah, don’t be afraid to watch the video. You nailed it. Seriously.

    Here in the US some forward-thinking companies like Google, Zappos, and even Pizza Nut provide nap rooms. Other companies will fire you if you get caught resting at your desk. Some businesses outsource employee naps to salons where you pay by the minute to take a nap. (No stress there!) 🙂

  19. Sandra on June 8, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Thank you Sarah, I will be taking a “nap”, I have been a little half hearted up until now, you have spurred me on to try on a regular basis. My first inspiration came from the book “Night School”.

    I will definitely be forwarding the link to my friends (mostly retirees) and family.

  20. Pat Pillai on June 8, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    Great talk Sarah.

    I’m a napper – if I allow myself to dose off I wake up naturally after10 minutes, instantly refreshed and good to go for several hours afterwards. Just sorry I can’t do this at work.

    • Sarah McKay on June 9, 2015 at 7:43 am

      Yes! I always say it’s like a second day Pat!

  21. Kristen on June 9, 2015 at 12:41 am

    Wonderful talk, Sarah. I love the blessed oblivion quote! I have cultivated my ability to fall asleep quickly (almost anywhere, anytime) and wake up refreshed 20 minutes later. I count it as one of my greatest assets. I also sleep easily and deeply at night most of the time. Seems like an important time in our civilizations history to remind us that this is a neurological need and not an indulgence for the lazy. Thank you for the informative and entertaining share.

    • Sarah McKay on June 9, 2015 at 7:42 am

      You sound very similar to me … love my naps and my nighttime sleep. Thanks for watching.

  22. Christine mckay on June 9, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    Hi Sarah,
    Loved your speech, I too take a nap and have done since I finished working. Gives me that extra get up a go each afternoon, feeling like I am ready for what ever hits me.
    You speech was brilliant. Xxx

  23. Ruth on June 10, 2015 at 2:45 pm


    I loved your talk – it was amazing! You are so inspiring! Feel very proud to know you and have had you as a mentor when I started out in medical writing. Thank you for your generosity. You totally deserve your successes and I look forward to watching where this takes you next.

    Best wishes,

  24. Alla on June 12, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    It’s amazing how we feel it’s OK to take naps when we’re on vacation because that’s what we’re there for, to relax. But if it takes just 15 minutes out of our day to take a nap and feel like we’re on vacation, why not do it!? A luxury we can definitely allow ourselves to indulge in, even in the busiest of days.

  25. Ruth on June 13, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks Sarah I love listening to people. I was not amazed that many are not comfortable sitting in an empty room.
    But I for one need quiet reflective time – to lie down and be still, to quiet my mind – so that I can be refreshed and ready to face the next challenge of my day. Oh that we in this modern society would hear the messages our body is trying to tell us.

  26. Suzanne Pereira on June 15, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    Sarah – congratulations on a fantastic ted talk – you were brilliant. Being of Indian background I can vouch for the power nap. I have been doing some yoga at work and will try and add a longer relaxation at the end. Also I love your blogs and I have been talking to everyone I meet about you. My Dad suffers Alzheimer’s so I am very keen to learn as much as I can about brain health – thank you again.

  27. jan ejsymontt on June 15, 2015 at 11:41 pm

    I live in Southern Europe, in Croatia in fact and here it is normal to take a siesta and when I go home for my lunch, I always take a nap. But, I always awake in the afternoon with a minor panic attack like an adrenaline rush. It lasts only a few seconds, but is a fact that exists for me every time I take a daytime nap. It does not happen when I awake in the mornings or in the middle of the night.It is not pleasant and does not seem to serve any purpose. I am a pretty relaxed and happy kind of person and this does not relate to any feelings of fear, although when it first occured I was suffering from mild anxiety. I no longer have anxiety.

    Any ideas why this may happen.


  28. Kay Reardon on June 26, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    Brilliant talk Sarah, so easy to understand. So great for me to hear your neuro scientist perspective on this issue which is so vital to my “new normal” status. Since suffering a TBI last February, ongoing, often extreme fatigue has been one of my symptoms. After being tested last November by a neuro psychologist, I have been “prescribed” regular power naps throughout the day. I can often turn into a veritable “witch” or a “sobbing sad sack” or a bumbling fool who makes no sense, when my power nap time is approaching. If I hesitate about going for a nap, anyone around me, just nudges me in the direction of a comfy chair or floor or my car. Currently I have no choice but to have a power nap every 1 1/2hour. I LOVE my naps but how long am I going to need to have them that often through the day? You don’t really need to answer that Sarah. The answer is most likely “how long is a piece of string?”. I get frustrated with the slow, long process of recovery from ABI and post concussion syndrome when my whole life and lifestyle has been affected. I have however, commenced a new journey where I am learning the power and pleasure of power napping, meditation, mindful fullness, yoga. I will be devouring everything I can from your blogs, website and Facebook. I’m not sure how I came across your Facebook page but I am truly thankful.

    • Sarah McKay on July 1, 2015 at 9:17 pm

      Hi Kay. Thanks so much for taking time to share your story with me. I’m delighted you found me too – sounds like you’re prescription is an excellent one. The brain absolutely NEEDS sleep to heal (and you’ll probably need more than 20 minutes at a time too, but it sounds like you’re pretty intuitive on how much you need).

  29. Jennifer on June 30, 2015 at 10:27 am

    When I was growing up, my father had his own business. He came home every day to share lunch with my mother. He left his boots at the door, listened to the stock market report on the radio, ate lunch and then lay on the carpet in the lounge room (never on the sofa or bed) for a brief nap. After 20 mins, he got up, put on his boots and returned to work. At almost 81, he is still physically and mentally active. He is one of the kindest, most generous men I know. He naps a little more frequently now but I believe it is a life long habit that has sustained him – one I know I should emulate myself 🙂

    • Sarah McKay on July 1, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      I love this story. Your Dad sounds like a wise man.

  30. Maha Al Zaidi on July 12, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    We as Muslims were advised by Prophet Mohammad Peace and Blessings be Upon Him to take a nap . He urged us not to sleep before sun sets as it is not preferable to us but the best time is after the Sun is in the middle of the Sky we call that time between the two prayers usually between 12:30 pm until 3:30 pm our local time in SA.

    • Sarah McKay on July 12, 2015 at 9:38 pm

      Sounds like perfect timing to me. I didn’t know this was part of your faith – thanks for sharing.

  31. Neelo on July 12, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    Thank you for this. My Anatomy teacher recommended your page and name for us to follow 🙂 very interesting talk on napping. I hated napping when my mom used to push me to it. Now that I am married and have my own kids, I make sure to take naps even if it doesnt happen everyday 🙂

    • Sarah McKay on July 12, 2015 at 8:52 pm

      Awesome – I’m delighted your Anatomy teacher recommended me. Where are you at school?

  32. Joan on July 13, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    Very interesting talk Sarah,
    I am retired so have the opportunity to powernap if I feel the need.
    Whenever we travelled on holidays I was no good to drive after lunch because I wanted to sleep.
    I find if I am sitting reading during the afternoon I often fall asleep and have to give into it.. I have iron overload and CF is a symptom of that.

    I have difficulty falling asleep at night. It can take a hour or more sometimes.

  33. David on July 22, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Hi Sarah, I loved your Ted talk and I am a great believer (but less of a regular practitioner) of the afternoon nap.
    Unfortunately I have started drinking coffee in the afternoon in an attempt to stay alert at work.I am going to try and introduce the concept of napping into our workplace.

    Happy napping


    • Sarah McKay on July 23, 2015 at 9:45 am

      Good luck!! Easier for me being self employed to ask my boss if its ok to nap!

  34. morrell pace on September 7, 2015 at 10:43 pm

    my sleep disorder is that, i go into a dream cycle within 10 minutes of falling asleep . Yes, In the last couple of years : i slept walked so many times. cooked dinner three time, I tried to paint the porch naked twice, Showered in my clothes, laundry, cleaned, gardened, so needless to say I wake with a headache, and very grouchy … I usually handle my PTSD under control by doing Yoga, and meditation … five years ago visiting my mother in Tulsa for business. I was Hit by a semi, drug 700 feet. it crushed my lumbar, and broke my neck. Nine surgeries and five years stuck in the states. My Home and sons are in Lahore, Pakistan… Now that my Yoga has been cut in half by my ability, or inability … Meditating on Narcotics quit the chore… I’ve been using Cannabis, and have cut my narcotics from 400 = 30mg of Oxycodone, to 40 a month … Now that my body is repairing I can get back to my good habits. I was a Nurse, and I got around my sleep disorder by working at night. and then I could nap for 15, and hit the floor running, with a rested mind… I totally agree. any hint’s on this type of sleep disorder… Thank you, and I will be following … sincerely, Pace …

  35. Kathy Meehan on December 21, 2015 at 4:02 am

    Hi Sarah – this was great. I am a yoga teacher as well as a brain-based coach/consultant.
    Do these findings also support an afternoon meditation or is it just sleep that produces these results?

    • Sarah McKay on December 21, 2015 at 6:58 am

      More so sleep than meditation. I assume it might have some of the same effects, but its a skill to be learned and mastered whereas sleep comes naturally.

  36. Grace Lau on December 31, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    Hi Sarah,

    I love your talk and the blog. I found neuroscience is fascinating even though I just touch the cover page of it with my poor English and understanding. I support your theory totally with my personal experience. I had need of napping ten years ago. But I thought it interrupts a lot of things that I like to do. So I stopped from time to time. I pick it up again recently. I love and enjoy it very much. I am sure that I will continue napping when I can to improve my getting poor memory.

    Thank you for your kindness to spread out your knowledge and help other people who needed most.



  37. […] case you missed that time I did a TEDx talk on this very topic earlier this year. Click here to watch ‘Indulge Your […]

  38. Pola Rest on September 17, 2016 at 2:28 am

    I LOVE to nap, and I’m so happy now to know it’s also good for my brain and my emotional wellbeing. Thank you!

  39. Susmita Barua on October 9, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    Thank you Sarah for mentioning mother. I used to love taking long naps in Calcutta, India beside my mom in afternoon, around 2-2:30 while reading my favorite books. I used to wonder why I was so happy and refreshed after nap. Now after coming to US going to schools I still could not give up my nap. I am hardwired to take nap and hiding it in jobs was difficult. I feel napping develops our spiritual/creative side or integrates our brain. I need long nap about 45 min to an hour to enjoy the unbounded formless realms.

  40. Brett Cameron on June 19, 2018 at 1:43 am

    Loved that presentation. Clear, concise, entertaining, and in a manner in which we can all understand. Thank you. I look forward to enrolling in your online course later this year.

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