A great deal of experts have pointed to the fact that actually our sleep and learning abilities are quite closely linked with each other. Do you remember your college times and how sleepy you could feel by the end of certain lectures? One could think that such things happen only when the lesson is too boring or too long. However, falling asleep right after getting certain information means nothing but perfectly absorbing and learning this kind of new information very well. That is why experts recommend studying and learning something right before going to sleep. Exam preparation, learning something by heart, studying for tomorrow’s lesson or preparing for tomorrow’s office presentation – those are the activities should be done right before the bedtime, in order to maximize the effectiveness of learning process.
A group of scientists from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, attempted to study the links between our sleep and learning. The experiment involved 208 students who studied in various educational establishments and always had 6 hours of sleep at night. The core of the experiment was showing the participants pairs of words (sometimes related to each other and sometimes totally different ones) and asking to remember as many of the words as possible. The tests were taking place before and after sleep, after rest and after breaks of various length. It is reported that recalling the pairs of words was slightly better after a 12-hour break between the tests. The longest break between the tests was as much as 24 hours.
At the same time, after the experiments with word memorizing tests before and after going to sleep on the second stage of the study, it became apparent that memorizing words right before going to bed can be much more successful, regardless of how long break was taken before and after the test. The benefits of sleeping after receiving new information are very long term, the scientists suggest. Also, as the experiment has shown, memorizing the words before the bedtime can be effective both for the pairs or related and the pairs of not related words. Thus, this study has proven that our sleep and learning are closely related and we can use these links for our benefits when studying or learning something new.
‘Our study confirms that sleeping directly after learning something new is beneficial for memory.’ commented Jessica Payne, one of the study leaders and a psychologist from the University of Notre Dame. She said that especially effective can be repeating the information that we need to keep in mind right before going to sleep. Exam study materials, oral presentation or speech, poems or other information that is necessary to keep in mind can be remembered in the most effective way after a series of pre-bedtime repetitions, she said. Payne describes this technique as ‘telling our brain the things to remember’. You can read more about this interesting study and its findings in one of the latest issues of the specialist journal PLOS One.
The problem of not getting enough of sleep, developing good sleep habits and taking most benefits from restful night’s sleep is very well familiar to many of us. A great deal of people in modern Europe and the US suffer from various sleep disorders, from chronic insomnia to sleep apnea, and are looking for answer to the question how to get good sleep at night. Certainly, similar problems are being faced by people of other countries, like China. However, according to Chinese experts, there is one more related social issue in their nation which requires immediate attention and action. It is estimated that in modern China, about 40 per cent of people suffer from sleep disorders. At the same time, only 1 per cent of those are aware about the problem, look for the ways to treat this condition and seek for help.
According to Dr. Han Fang, vice-president of the Chinese Sleep Research Society and an expert at the Peking University People’s Hospital, such practice as working shits is very common in China, imposing a great deal of risks to health and well being of modern Chinese people. Shift workers have distorted sleep-awake routine, usually accompanied with extremely high risks of having sleep disorders and related health conditions, which in turn have great impacts on such people’s productivity and working efficiency. Combined with other factors like the world’s tendency to being overweight and getting fatter, this fact can cause very serious social consequences in quite short period of time, Chinese experts at the Ministry of Health and the Chinese Sleep Research Society warn.
According to Dr. Han Fang, about 30 per cent of today’s Chinese people suffer from the most common sleep disorder, chronic insomnia, and up to 4 per cent actually have quite serous sleep problems, accompanied with such symptoms as severe snoring, airway resistance syndrome, sleep apnea, and many more. It is estimated that up to 70 per cent of children in China also have sleep disorders ranging from insufficient and irregular sleep and ending up with total unawareness of good sleep habits. Those are the findings of a recent extensive national study conducted by Chinese sleep experts and involved analyzing info on 30,000 children from a series of big cities throughout China. “Early school hours and heavy homework caused children to have less time to sleep,” Han Fang said.
Low awareness about the problem makes people suffer and risk their health without knowing what is the cause. There are over 15 hundred specialized sleep centers in China, with plenty of specialists who can help to answer the questions, how to get good sleep or how to develop good sleep habits. “Almost all of the centers in relatively large cities are now running at full capacity and patients even have to wait for months to see the doctor,” the expert says. Compared to the situation with sleep disorder awareness and treatment in the US, where for 300,000 million people there are over 2,000 sleep centers, the problem in China requires immediate attention of governmental structures, Dr. Han Fang concludes.