Archive for September, 2013

Finding your motivation

Posted: September 3, 2013 in Motivation, Uncategorized

It’s that time of the year again when the school starts putting numbers on a board. Numbers so big that the auntie staying in the opposite block can see it while watering her plants. Numbers that decrease with each passing day reminding us (whether we like it or not) that our end of year exams are closing in. Numbers that jolt us into attempts to find our motivation to buckle down and study if we haven’t already done so with each passing day. A couple of years ago some students requested that I write about motivation. So I did. I wrote about the story of a student who found his motivation when he reminded himself what he’s doing this for. I also talked about a student who found her motivation when she decided that she wanted to finish her JC days off in style. Sometimes motivation comes when you find meaning in life like in the movie bucket list. Lastly, it never hurts to read what your seniors who have gone before you did to motivate themselves when they encountered setbacks. I have a few more ideas on motivation now that I’m older and wiser…haha. So I’ll find some time to write about those as well. Hopefully some of these will be helpful for you guys.

ID-10052826I like to sleep. Alot. It has always been this way from when I was in primary school right up to now. Someone once told me that when you get older, you need less sleep. Not me. 9 hours of sleep is barely sufficient for me. In university I stayed at the dorm and I was sleeping alot of the time even during the exam period. My room mate was one who would make 3 packets of 3 in 1 coffee in a single mug to stay awake. Me? I study for awhile then I sleep. And sleep. And sleep. It irritated my room mate to no end because I always ended up doing better than her in the exams. She can’t, for the life of her, understand how it is that I sleep so much (and therefore spend much less time revising compared to her) and still do better than her. I didn’t understand that myself. I thought maybe I was a genius…haha…which obviously didn’t help our friendship. Until I discovered neuroscience, the study of how our brain works, then I realized that I’m no genius. I just happened to have stumbled on that one key thing which helps students to do better in school – SLEEP.

Neuroscientists have discovered that sleep helps with learning and memory and that successful students tend to sleep more. I previously wrote about how repetition helps with memory and the connection between short term memory (STM or the stuff we forget quickly) and long term memory (LTM or the stuff that sticks). Turns out, sleep plays a critical role in memory consolidation!

You and I both know that as a student, one of the most important brain functions you would need is memory. As a student, you probably rely on that brain function more than anything else, especially if you take history!! You and I also know that many students think sleep is a luxury. One of the students I recently talked to logically deduced that since he wakes up feeling tired whether he sleeps early or late, then he might as well sleep late and spend that extra time doing his school work. Sounds logical if you didn’t already know about the concept of sleep debt which I’ll talk about in another post.

Neuroscientists performed a number of research on subjects who were randomly grouped into two groups, Group A and B. Both groups were asked to memorize a simple mathematical formula and then after another 30 minutes they were asked to memorize another mathematical formula. Group B was given a nap in between of about 15 minutes while group A was not allowed to nap. They then used a fancy machine to do brain imaging on both groups and found that the nap group (group B) had completed the shift from STM to LTM. Meaning, that the formula they memorized has successfully shifted to a place in their brain where they will remember it for a long time and is therefore able to retrieve that information if they were to say sit for a maths test the following week. That, compared to the group that didn’t nap (group A) and therefore is more likely to forget the information the next day.

So what does this all mean? If you are trying to memorize something really important, take a short nap after you’ve memorized it. What?! Sounds so counter intuitive. But that’s what neuroscience has proven. Sometimes the best way to remember stuff is to sleep on it. Over and over again, experts in the field have pointed out that you can’t pull an all-nighter and still learn (or remember) effectively. That’s why we feel tired after a full day of school. We learned so much stuff in school our brain is screaming out for us to sleep so that it can do its job properly – consolidating stuff and shifting material from STM to LTM. When we don’t sleep, our brain can’t do its job, and we so so need our brain to do its job.

So this September holidays, treat yourself right. Sleep on.