Learning Strategy 17: Sleep and Rest

Robert Harris
Version Date: February 27, 2014


In the old days (that is, about forty years ago), manframe computer users would type up their programs onto punch cards (cards with rectangular holes punched in them) and then hand the stack of cards over to the computer operator (who wore a white lab coat). When the operator got a bunch of stacks of cards, he would put them into the hopper and run them all through the computer. The computer would chew them over and print out a few feet of greenbar paper (wide paper complete with sprocket holes and alternating shadings of green to make reading the printed lines more easily). If the user were still hanging around when the job was run at midnight, it was amazing to watch error messages print out at 1100 lines per minute.

So why am I telling you this? Well, it's sort of an analogy. You write the program code for your brain during the day when you study or work problem sets, or read, or think. Then, when you go to sleep each night, the little guy in  your brain (in his white lab coat) takes all that information and puts it into the hopper to process it.

In other words, your brain works on your daytime learning while you sleep, sorting it out, processing it, cementing it into long-term memory, and just washing it down to make it clean and presentable.

But--what if you stay up all night, as some students do when they study for a major exam? Well, if you don't go to sleep at night, the little guy in your brain can't put the punch cards in the hopper and run the mainframe. He just keeps collecting more punch cards, and he starts dropping handfuls at a time. He can't hold them all.

In other words, your brain needs sleep in order to consolidate the material you are learning. No sleep, little learning. And consequently, studying by "pulling an all nighter" actually harms your examination performance.

And, as you learned from study cycles, if you back your pickup truck up to the mainframe room door and dump a truckload of punchcards all at once on the little guy in the white lab coat, you won't get good results.

The Key

The key is to study, sleep, study, sleep (or at least rest). The brain is a kind of electrochemical machine that your mind uses to explore and learn and solve problems. It's like a horse (to change analogies), and it must be maintained in order to work properly. Carrying your mind to new places requires a lot of energy, so it needs both food and rest.

Sleep deprivation not only makes your body tired, but it also makes your brain tired and difficult to control. When my brain gets sleepy, I write strange sentences which make no sense.

The Method

Design  your learning life so that it includes time for sleepp (8 hours for college students, 9 hours for high school students), rest, study breaks, and a nap. Check out this program for a college student:

7:00 up and at em
8:00-10:00 classes. Attend two classes. Take notes.
10:00-10:30 break. Rest, have some coffee, review your notes, talk casually with a classmate about what you just learned.
10:30-12:00 class, homework, reading
12:00-1:00 lunch. This is a break, too. It can be a good idea to eat in 30 minutes and take a 30 minute nap. Brain researchers discovered that a 28 minute nap refreshed the brain and body for another five hours of operation.
1:00-3:00 classes, library, research
3:00-3:30 nap. The reason so many cultures have Siestas in the afternoon is that the human body gets sleepy in the afternoon. You might need to adjust your own Siesta time depending on when your sleepiness hits. But don't fight it.
3:30-6:00 research, reading, working on projects
6:00-7:00 dinner. Take a relaxing hour to  eat or eat in 30 minutes and take the other 30 minutes to chat with a friend, nap, play a game, or otherwise rest your brain.
7:00-8:30 study session
8:30-9:00 break
9:00-10:30 study session
10:30-11:00 wind down, think over the day, take a shower
11:00 to sleep

This sketch is not intended to be adhered to recipe-like; it's just to give you an idea about how to balance your mental work day. It probably includes much more rest and relaxation time than many college students take--and that's the point. Most student brains don't get enough rest and sleep.

Yes, you do need sleep. Extreme sleep deprivation cause psychosis, brain fry, and severe lack of learning and remembering. Tiredness from too little sleep slows down your learninig speed and lowers your capacity. If you don't want to read every paragraph three times before you can understand it, get enough sleep.

High Performance Learning

For maximun brain optimization,

VirtualSalt Home
Learning Strategy 1: Mnemonics
Learning Strategy 2: Paraphrasing
Learning Strategy 3: Summarizing
Learning Strategy 4: Self Monitoring
Learning Strategy 5: Self Explanation
Learning Strategy 6: Mental Rehearsal
Learning Strategy 7: Self Assessment
Learning Strategy 8: The SQ3R Reading Method
Learning Strategy 9: Note Taking
Learning Strategy 10: The Leitner Flash Card System
Learning Strategy 11: Maintaining Interest
Learning Strategy 12: Conversation
Learning Strategy 13: Group Interaction
Learning Strategy 14: Idea Mapping
Learning Strategy 15: Drawing Pictures
Learning Strategy 16: Study Cycles
Learning Strategy 17: Sleep and Rest
Learning Strategy 18: Fluency / Automaticity
Learning Strategy 19: Learning Strategy Checklist
Learning Strategy 20: Asking Questions
Learning Strategy 21: Idea Linking
Learning Strategy 22: How to Use a Book
Learning Strategy 23: Active Listening
Learning Strategy 24: Close Reading
Learning Strategy 25: Fluency / Automaticity
Learning Strategy 26: Power Thinking
Learning Strategy 27: Planning for Learning
Learning Strategy 28: Outlining
Learning Strategy 29: Analogies
Copyright 2013 by Robert Harris | CCC 7000520813 | How to cite this page
w w w . v i r t u a l s a l t . c o m
About the author:
Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com