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Why Sleep Is Awesome

July 10, 2010

From Zook Tutoring:

Yes, this is the 3rd article in a week from Rebecca Zook’s blog, but her stuff is so good!  I hadn’t read her blog in a few months, but now I see I need to keep up with it a bit more.

Here is a 3 part series on sleep’s impact on learning.

Why Sleep is Awesome

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Here’s a thought-provoking article about kids and sleep from one of my favorite writers, Po Bronson.

Compared to 30 years ago, most kids get about an hour less sleep per night. Shocking fact: losing just this one hour of sleep causes kids to function cognitively as if they are two years younger. Adults are affected too. After 2 weeks of getting only 6 hours of sleep per night, adults act “just as impaired as someone who has stayed awake for 24 hours straight.”

My favorite bitlet:

Sleep is a biological imperative for every species on Earth. But humans alone try to resist its pull. Instead, we see sleep not as a physical need but a statement of character. It’s considered a sign of weakness to admit fatigue, and it’s a sign of strength to refuse to succumb to slumber. Sleep is for wusses.

(Bronson and his collaborator, Ashley Merryman, also discuss this same research in their recent book NurtureShock, which I highly recommend–it’s totally amazing.)

Why Sleep is Awesome #2

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Kindergarten nap2

Need to focus? Take a nap! From my favorite magazine, The Week:

The restorative power of naps

The boss might not buy it, but an early afternoon nap could indeed make you more productive, reports National Geographic News. Psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, gave two groups of adults a learning test designed to stimulate a part of the brain critical to short-term memory. At 2 p.m., two hours after taking the test, one group was allowed to nap for 90 minutes; the other continued to work. At 6 p.m., the test was administered again, and the group that had napped scored markedly better than the one that hadn’t napped.

The results suggest that sleep “reboots” the brain, helping to clear its short-term memory and shuttle key information into longer-term storage. “It’s as though the e-mail inbox is full and, until you sleep and clear out those fact e-mails, you’re not going to receive any more mail,” says study author Matthew Walker. After napping, he says, you’re “ready to soak up new information.”

My favorite quote from the longer National Geographic News article: “When you have a problem, no one says you should ’stay awake on it,’” he [researcher Matthew Walker] quipped.

We seem to accept that kids benefit from naps. But adult napping, especially in the workplace, is not encouraged, even though it helps adults learn better and get more stuff done.

I frequently use naps as a way to re-set and refresh my brain, and I’m glad to see this phenomenon being explored and recognized by the scientific community! Maybe this research will be a small step towards a more pro-nap culture.

Why Sleep is Awesome #3

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

From one of my favorite magazines, The Week:

A good night’s sleep and even a nice nap can boost your brain’s ability to remember and learn new information. But dreams can help even more, a new study suggests. For the Harvard study, 100 volunteers were asked to take a test on a computer that involved finding their way around a maze. After a five-hour break, they took the test again.

Those who had stayed awake in the interim improved their time by an average of 26 seconds, while subjects who took a 90-minute nap did much better, improving their time by 188 seconds. But the most dramatic improvements were among the four who actually dreamed about the test; their performances improved 10 times as much as the nondreamers’.

“I was startled by this finding,” Harvard neuroscientist Robert Stickgold tells Science News. “This study tells us that dreams are the brain’s way of processing, integrating, and really understanding new information.” Researchers suspect that dreams don’t directly improve memory; rather, they’re byproducts of a deeper thought process in which memories are integrated.

In any event, “If you’re studying something tough, get the basics down and take a nap,” says sleep researcher Michael Breus. “If you dream about it, you will probably understand it better.”

Yay! More scientific evidence in support of naps and healthy sleeping! I’ve always thought that falling asleep with visions of equations dancing in my head was a sign that I was maybe doing a little too much math. But maybe it’s just a way to prime my brain to dream about the problems I need to solve!

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