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Brain Breaks: Why Brain Breaks

Virtual stress relief activities to allow the mind and body to relax and refresh


This site, Brain Breaks, has two goals: 1) to encourage breaks that allow the mind and body to refresh and 2) to fill some of the void left by COVID-19 restrictions. 

Brain Breaks is designed to offer creative minds a playground of online material. There are a variety of active and passive activities, good for the mind and body.  For those hesitant to justify a break, included on this page are a variety of articles examining the advantages of taking a break while working or studying.  

Drake Memorial Library feels the void left by COVID-19.  We sorrily miss physically interacting with our students and hosting activities throughout the semester.  Our hope is that this site will serve to fill the absence of our traditional end of the semester Long Night event. 

We hope you enjoy Brain Breaks.  As we strive to keep Brain Breaks fresh and interesting, we welcome your comments.  Please use our feedback form to offer suggestions or recommendations.

Questions & Answers about Breaks

A popular 2018 article, Why You Need to Take More Breaks (And How To Do It),  covers the following questions

Part 1 will answer all your questions about the benefits of taking breaks. So, if you’re still doubting that breaks are good for your productivity, start there.

Part 2 is all about HOW to take effective breaks. How many? How long? What to do DURING your break. And more.

Part 3 is where you’ll find practical advice about how to make regular breaks part of your daily routine.

Warning: Negative effects of sitting for an extended time period

Lee, E., & Kim, Y. (2019). Effect of university students’ sedentary behavior on stress, anxiety, and depression. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 55(2), 164–169.

"As sitting hours increased, university students’ stress, anxiety, and depression significantly increased despite controlling for sex, economic level,body mass index, underlying disease, and health self-management.

Practical Implications: Intervention programs that reduce sedentary behavior and improve physical activity and mental health for university students are necessary."

Break Benefits

Southard, K. J., Rhoades, J. L., Whitehead, J. R., & Walch, T. J. (2018). A Signage Intervention Decreases Inactive Study Breaks in College Students. American Journal of Health Studies, 33(1), 52–60.

"In summary, this is a novel study that shows the need for breaking up prolonged periods of sedentary time in college students to promote health benefits. This is the first study, to our knowledge, to observe college student study behaviors rather than rely on self-report. Overall, there is a need for active study breaks to increase academic performance, improve physical well-being, relieve stress, improve mood, and increase productivity."


Steinborn, M. B., & Huestegge, L. (2016). A Walk Down the Lane Gives Wings to Your Brain. Restorative Benefits of Rest Breaks on Cognition and Self-Control. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 30(5), 795–805.

"The results indicate that while rest is generally beneficial for performance, these benefits are similar for active and passive rest."


Lim, J., & Kwok, K. (2015). The Effects of Varying Break Length on Attention and Time on Task. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomic Society, 58(3), 472-481. doi:10.1177/0018720815617395

"Results:  Improvements in reaction time were significantly positively associated with length of the rest break."


Randolph, S. A., MSN, RN. (2016). The Importance of Employee Breaks. Workplace Health & Safety, 344. doi:10.1177/2165079916653416

"The occupational and environmental health nurse should encourage workers to take work breaks. Breaks enable all workers to perform at their best."

Rest Break Benefit

Lim, J., Lo, J. C., & Chee, M. W. L. (2017). Assessing the benefits of napping and short rest breaks on processing speed in sleep-restricted adolescents. Journal of Sleep Research, 26(2), 219–226.

"Our results indicate that napping partially reverses the detrimental effects of sleep restriction on processing speed. However, rest breaks have a greater effect as a countermeasure against poor performance when sleep pressure is higher. These data add to the growing body of evidence showing the importance of sleep for good cognitive functioning in adolescents, and suggest that more frequent rest breaks might be important in situations where sleep loss is unavoidable."

Nature Benefit

Largo-Wight, E., Wlyudka, P. S., Merten, J. W., & Cuvelier, E. A. (2017). Effectiveness and feasibility of a 10-minute employee stress intervention: Outdoor Booster Break. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 32(3), 159–171.

"This pilot study was designed to test the feasibility and efficacy of a daily outdoor work break (Outdoor Booster Break) compared to a daily indoor break.  Taking a work break appears to have stress-reducing benefits, but the Outdoor Booster Break reduced stress significantly more than an indoor break."

Exercise Benefit

Rachel E. Maddux, Daiva Daukantaité & Una Tellhed (2018) The effects of yoga on stress and psychological health among employees: an 8- and 16-week intervention study, Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 31:2, 121-134, DOI: 10.1080/10615806.2017.1405261

"Results: Significant reductions in stress and all psychological health measures were found within the Yoga group over 16 weeks. When compared to the control group, yoga practitioners showed significant decreases in stress, anxiety, and general psychological health, and significant increases in well-being. The group who did not practice yoga showed significant decreases in stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia after they crossed over and practiced yoga for 8 weeks."