My mum would often tell me “all will be well in the morning.” For her, it was just experience and age-old wisdom.
And things always were better in the morning.
Somehow, all the clutter and stress and worry, while, not gone altogether, was, at least more manageable.
As I slept, my brain was free to sort through the problem, process it entirely and put it in a suitable place close to a similar experience in memory. I had learned how to resolve whatever the issue was. More often than not, it didn't even need addressing anyway.
It's akin to my mum's advice to “sleep on the problem” so that your memories can be reprocessed, consolidate and shaped for better (faster) retrieval. Taking a learning break gives your brain time and space to reprocess.
And now there's compelling new evidence from the University of Texas at Austin, recently published in the National Academy of Sciences: http://www.pnas.org/content/111/44/15845.abstract
that supports the idea that study breaks improve later learning (or as Sean says, not completing learning 100%)
But how much is the right amount for studying and how long for a break?
I've been researching this for some time now and unsurprisingly; the results are inconclusive. However, there does appear to be a general reduction in the active learning time for younger people.
All of this in non-academic learning situations, by the way. Tested for learning retention 24 hours after the learning event and 21 days later.
But within every group there was a range, and it would change for an individual dependent on the mode of learning. That is, was the learning in a form that they preferred (reading, video, audio, kinesthetic, etc.). Sadly (from an academic point of view) even so-called learning preferences wasn't a statistically significant factor.
When we are learning anything, our pre-frontal cortex (PFC) is burning a lot of energy as we evaluate the information, process it and check it against working memory. Then the new information is processed, consolidated, and linked to appropriate other memories and emotions… but for this to be held in longer term memory, it appears that the PFC needs to be less active. Perhaps because the PFC is such an energy hog, and we simply need to switch our energy resources to consolidate memories (learn).
So can't we just take a pill and learn better and faster?
To a certain extent, we can.
Glucose and oxygen – the fuel we need to burn to learn. (Caffeine can assist as well if recent research is correct.)
So taking a moment, munching on candy, taking deep breaths and sipping that cup of coffee all help us learn… oh, I've just described a break
Better still, as my dear mum would say, “sleep on it, all will be better in the morning.”
I help people unlock their talent, unstuck their potential and unleash their own (and their team's) performance through behavioural neuroscience based coaching and mentoring. Most whip smart independent contributors, technical specialists and managers get frustrated trying to be heard and understood by their business leaders and they lack enough time and inclination to develop the skills they need to move into management and leadership positions. Proven systems. A personal coach and mentor. I combine time-tested systems, behavioural neuroscience and psychology research and practical tools with the accountability and guidance of a 1:1 coach and mentor to UnLock your Talent, UnStuck Your Potential and UnLeash Your Performance.
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