No amount of diet coke or coffee can make me truly alert after just four hours sleep, even if a boiling hot shower can convince my body in the short term that I’m refreshed and rested.
Research supports this. Work by Karen Bradley (2011) suggests that the brain needs sleep to consolidate learning and memory. It also needs the right kind of breaks.
If the break can rest the tired part of the brain, then this will strengthen memory traces. However, following on from research by Duke University (2006), if the break activity is emotionally charged it will cause the student’s performance to decline.
Study breaks should not cause stress that engages the tired area of the brain. Exercise and listening to music can rest the brain, but engaging with social media may exacerbate its exhaustion.
Those conscientious students – and there are many of them – brave enough to organise their own revision schedule must remember not to sacrifice sleep for study.
Research by Andrew J. Fuligni, professor of psychiatry and bio-behavioural sciences at UCLA showed that if a student gives up sleep in order to study more than usual, he or she is more likely to have academic problems the following day.
He said: “Academic success may depend on finding strategies to avoid having to give up sleep to study, such as maintaining a consistent study schedule across days, using school time as efficiently as possible, and sacrificing time spent on other, less essential activities.”