Archive for October, 2013

The value of looking back

Posted: October 18, 2013 in Motivation
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Congratulations JC2s on your graduation! I remember when I graduated from JC I was mostly glad that I don’t have to sing Mari Kita everyday anymore. I don’t even remember if I thanked my teachers properly…aiyoh terrible! Anyways, I asked a JC2 student last week looking back at the 2 years that he has spent in YJC, whether he thought that he could have actually gotten to this point of graduating and taking his A levels in 20 days. He said he didn’t think that he could have endured these wretched 2 years and more than once had thought of quitting. But he didn’t, and he stuck it through and I affirmed him for that.

I think there is value in looking back and i’m sure if you do that, you’ll see that all of you guys displayed qualities of perseverance and grit to have gone through the last couple of years in JC. Sometimes we take things for granted and give ourselves too little credit! Surely if you managed to stick through the last couple of years, I believe the final lap towards your A levels would not be too hard a task to undertake and I wish you guys all the very best for your A levels! 🙂

I just finished reading this fascinating research article ‘To study or to sleep? The academic costs of extra studying at the expense of sleep’. I’ve written a couple of posts on how the lack of sleep makes us forget the stuff we studied and also about the concept of sleep debt. This article that I just read talks about how when students sacrifice sleep time to squeeze that extra few hours of studying in, they actually end up doing worse academically, NOT better, which is the opposite intent of most students I know.

This research study by UCLA (University of California, LA) followed a group of 535 senior high students (kind of like our equivalent of upper secondary and JC) over a period of 4 years and asked the students to record daily the number of hours they sleep, the number of hours they studied and also whether they faced the following two academic problems:- (1) Having trouble understanding the material being taught in class and (2) doing poorly on tests, quizzes or homework assignment. The researchers found out that regardless of the total number of hours that a student studied, those who sacrificed sleep in order to put in extra nights of studying had poorer performance in tests and other assignments and also had more trouble understanding what was being taught in class the next day.

The research doesn’t state that therefore you should spend less hours studying. It still holds true that students who put in more hours studying get better grades (all things being equal). What this does suggest is that if you find that you need to put in more hours studying what with the exams and all, then rather than sacrificing sleep, it will be far better for you to sacrifice some other stuff (like reading tweets or watching youtube videos – just my thoughts).

With 31 days to A’levels and promos being this week, many of you might be planning to pull all-nighters or sleep less to get more content and practice in. In fact, many of you may already be doing so! But with all these research, I’ve come to realize that if there was one thing I did right as a student, it was the fact that I never ever sacrificed my beauty (and brainy) sleep. And I hope you won’t either.

Here’s a briefer article describing the research if you prefer not to go into the lengthy article.

sleeping studentDid I already say that I sleep alot? I think I did. Last night I went to bed at 9.30 and got up this morning at 6.30am. My friends say I sleep like I’m still a teenager. Opinions differ on how much sleep you need. Thomas Edison supposedly only slept 3-4 hours a day and said sleep is a waste of time. Albert Einstein needed 10 hours of sleep to function well. Most researchers will agree though that at age 17 and 18 you would need about 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep a day. Yup, it’s that specific.

I think at least 90% of JC students sleep much much less than that. I’ve heard of students who go to bed at 8pm, set the alarm clock for 1am and get up to study then come to school! Research says that if you sleep less than what you’re supposed to (8.5 to 9.25 for you guys) then you incur a sleep debt. The calculation of the debt is simple math really. Say you need 8.5 a day, you only sleep 5 so you have a sleep debt of 3.5 hours. And this debt is cumulative so if you incur a debt of 3.5 hours on every school day by the end of the week you’ve incurred a debt of 17.5 hours. Most people then try to sleep it off on weekends but there’s no way you can literally sleep 8.5 + (17.5/2) = 17.25 hours! My math rocks! No doubt because I’m getting enough sleep. Even if you do manage to comatose yourself from 12am to 5.15pm on weekends it’s still not going to cut it because you’ve accumulated this debt for so many years.

Researchers say constant sleep deprivation and accumulation of sleep debt leads to trouble remembering. I think I talked about this in the last post…the ability to remember stuff being especially important for students. No point mugging and mugging only to forget everything right when you needed it right? In fact, when scientists intentionally deprived rats of sleep on a continuous basis, the rats died.  Due to obvious ethical reason, they can’t test this on human beings but the extrapolation is there.

Then there are the students who tell me that they can’t go to sleep even when they are tired. They just lie in bed and stare at the ceiling for hours on end when they could have spent that time sleeping and paying off that debt. I think one of the reasons why I very seldom have that issue is that I’m a creature of habit. I sleep at almost the same time everyday (give or take 15 minutes) and wake up at the same time even on weekends. Scientists say our bodies are creatures of habit. It produces melatonin (a hormone that tells our body it’s time to get sleepy) at almost the same time everyday based on our circadian rhythm. This melatonin production is disrupted when your sleep pattern is irregular e.g. sleep at 8pm one day and 1am the next which then leads to the problem of not being able to sleep when you’re tired. Other things that disrupts melatonin includes the exposure to the blue light from our gadgets like our phone, stimulants like caffeine and physical exercise (so no push ups before bed plzz).

So what’s the conclusion? #1 regulating your sleep pattern seems to help. Exams happen at 8am whether we like it or not. So try to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday keeping in mind the minimum hours needed. In this way, your body gets sleepy when it needs to and is awake for the 8am exam paper. #2 keep away gadgets and other stimulants at night at least an hour before you want to hit the sack so it doesn’t disrupt your melatonin production. Go the old fashion way. Read a book or count stars…then maybe you won’t need to hit the snooze button ever. 🙂

Image courtesy of FrameAngel/