Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How Sleeping Beauty Passed Her School Exam with Flying Colours

How did Sleeping Beauty pass the school exam with flying colours? By studying in her dreams!
Well, I am just pulling some legs. Of course, Sleeping Beauty had never gone to school. She would have, if she did not spend a hundred years sleeping. Eight hours a day is highly recommended, but a hundred years? That is what I call 'overdoing it'.

I am a bit of an insomniac actually, I do not sleep a lot, but after reading Rose and Nicholl's Accelerated Learning for the 21st Century, I might want to consider changing my sleeping habit. I believe it is a step towards the right direction if I am serious about going back to college next year. It seems getting the right kind of sleep can do wonders for my memory. Sleeping, from what I understand, is the ultimate studying technique.

     According to Rose and Nicholl, when we sleep we are actually recording and filing away things we have learned during the day. They mentioned about a research conducted in 1970 by Vincent Bloch of the University of Paris. In this study, rats that are being trained in a maze-learning task showed increase in the time they spent in REM sleep. Conversely, according to Rose and Nicholl, "several studies have shown that when both rats and humans have their REM sleep interrupted, they have much poorer recall of the previous day's events" (Rose and Nicholl, 1997, pp.140).
     What is REM sleep? It is a phase in our sleep when we usually start having dreams. REM stands for 'rapid eye movement', after the rapid movement of the eyeball under the eyelid that normally occurs when people enter into this phase in their sleep.
     There are numerous studies conducted on the association of REM sleep with memory. Psychology Today, for example, reported a Canadian project in which students who went to bed after studying all evening retained much more information than their counterparts who crammed throughout the night. For me personally, this goes on to show why 'burning the midnight oil' the night before exam is not a good idea at all. No wonder my grades used to suffer during high school!
     Rose and Nicholl go on to cite numerous other studies conducted on this subject, and what I could conclude from my reading is that in order to have good recall of what we have studied, REM sleep must be involved in the process.
     Rose and Nicholl sum up researcher Chris Evans speculation in this statement: "we sleep in order to dream. And, in turn, we dream in order to sort and integrate our new experiences into the existing networks of our memory" (pp. 141).
     In effect to that, Rose and Nicholl suggest the following pattern for 'improved learning':
  1. Learn.
  2. Review the material briefly before sleep.
  3. Sleep.
  4. Briefly review the previous day's learning again.

     So if I am truly serious about performing well in my studies, I should consider involving the REM sleep in my schedule. Clearly it is more than just 'beauty sleep', for all it is worth it could be 'intelligence sleep' too.

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