Struggling to Study? How a Good Night’s Sleep Might be the Answer
Self-directed study can often be a challenge; from the motivation to get started to the frustration that comes when you find that nothing seems to be sinking in. Whether you are studying for an online course or are studying for final year University exams, there could be some simply ways in which you can lessen the struggle of studying just by adjusting your lifestyle.
During stressful exam periods, it can often seem like everything is getting on top of us. In a recent study conducted by the National Union of Students, over 71% of students worry about finances and how they are going to afford to eat day to day. This common worry alongside passing exams, making friends, considering what you want to do for the future and any other personal issues can often make studying even more difficult than it already is.
What Lifestyle Changes Can I Make to Help My Studies?
When it comes to studying, the first thing to ensure is that you have a dedicated study schedule. Plan when you are going to study and try to make it early in the morning, so you have the rest of the day and won’t feel stressed about having too little time. Don’t forget to also plan for breaks and spread out the time which you study so you don’t end up cramming the day before an exam!
Eat Well & Exercise
Anyone who has been on a junk food binge or has gone all out for Christmas will know that some foods can weigh you down and make you feel lethargic. Eating healthy not only means that you will have more energy to study, but also means that you will be getting the nutrients and minerals your brain needs to function at its best. Regular exercise has also been shown by Harvard Medical School to improve thinking and memory skills.
Talk to People
Sometimes the best way to learn what you need to is by talking about it with other people. Whether it’s a study group or just a question and answer session with a friend, discussing the material not only helps you become more engaged with it but also highlights any points you might not understand fully or might struggle to remember.
What is the Effect of Sleep on Studying and Learning?
According to Psychology Today, who investigated the relationship between study and sleep, found that if you sleep directly after studying then you are more likely to remember the information you’ve learnt. They also found that spreading out your study time improves the accuracy and speed of recall; therefore, making your studying more effective. Over the past decade we have learnt more and more about the effects of sleep on the brain, and how valuable it is for our brain to rest in order to function to the fullest. It has been proven that sleep helps to consolidate memories, as does exercise, but in fact you don’t experience the memory benefits of exercise unless you get a good night’s sleep as well.
There have also been countless studies done on the effects of sleep deprivation, and as predicted, these have a hugely negative effect on many areas of our lives. The different levels of sleep as outlined by the Harvard Business Review, assist us in different ways; from learning how to do something to remembering what we’ve learned. When deprived of any of the sleep levels by not getting enough sleep, the over-worked neurons in our brain are affected. This causes a lack of focus and concentration, a lack of ability to make sound decisions, mood swings and slower reaction times.
How Can I Get a Good Night’s Sleep?
It’s one thing to know that you need a good night’s sleep, but what about actually getting one? With worries and thoughts whirring around in our heads, it can be tricky to drift off once our head hits the pillow.
Make a to-do list
Often our pre-sleep worries are simply anxieties about what we need to do over the next few days. Jot down a “to do” list to free your mind from having to remember it all.
Get rid of electronics
It’s a well-known fact that going on your phone, watching the TV or playing on a computer before going to sleep affects our sleep quality. According to the Sleep Foundation, the screen light of technological devices reduces our Melatonin levels, which in turn affects our circadian (sleep/wake) rhythm. Even having technological devices in your room can affect your sleep cycle!
Have a good routine
By going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends!) your body’s internal clock can sync up with your sleep/wake times and it will be easier to both get to sleep and wake up. Plus, you can be sure you get enough sleep every night as you aren’t pushing the bed times back and forward constantly.
Exercise during the day
Although we’ve already covered exercise, it does actually help with sleep as well. If you wear your body out with physical exercise it is more likely to need rest and you will not only get to sleep easier, but also experience a deeper sleep which is beneficial for things such as learning.
Find a relaxing ritual
Going to bed is all about winding down. When you are working or studying during the day that can be especially difficult, which is why finding bedtime rituals can help a lot. Take a long, hot bath, read a book, listen to some calming music or dim the lights an hour or two before bed.