How to improve your performance
No, not that performance! That’s maybe a conversation for another time!!
But at work, how’s your performance when you’ve gone short of sleep?
How effective and motivated are you when you’re thoroughly knackered?
You already know that going short of sleep does you no favours whatsoever. Planning, problem-solving, learning, concentration, working memory and alertness all suffer. You get stupider too! IQ scores also fall when we’re tired.
How many of us regularly get two or three consecutive late nights and early morning starts? Oh dear!
Did you know that people who get an extra hour or two’s good sleep every night perform much better than everyone else in tasks needing sustained attention… wait for it… such as taking an exam.
Now you’re interested!
Of course, being able to concentrate harder means that your overall mental performance is better. If you’re able to boost your power of attention, everything else improves too.
But never mind on the day of the exam. If you want your brain to process new memories and to automatically practice new skills, you need to provide it with the best opportunity to do so, by sleeping well. Your brain even solves problems for you while you’re asleep, so if you’re revising for an exam and you’re expecting to retain the information you’ve learned, try this…
Try studying for a couple of hours, taking regular breaks during that time, and then going to sleep. You’d be better off doing that than slogging through the night, forgetting everything as fast as you learn it.
While you’re asleep your brain continues to work for you, reactivating the circuits it was using when you were studying and moving those new memories into long-term storage.
That means that the next day all that information will still be there for you – and you’ll have a much better memory for what you’re trying to recall. And it’s very important to revisit that information the very next day, i.e. according to the Learning Cycle, and after you’ve slept on it, or pretty soon you’ll forget it anyway.
Memory researchers are in favour of taking a nap after training of any sort – not just when revising, but when you’re learning any new skills, such as playing a new video game, playing the piano, driving the car or playing tennis, to name just a few physical activities.
So, if you want to develop a better memory and get the most out of your brain, or if you’re revising for exams and want to give yourself the best chance of remembering what you’ve studied, all the research points towards the benefits of shorter bouts of revision, punctuated by regular naps.
Getting good quality and enough sleep brings numerous advantages, while going short of sleep renders you pretty useless!
Research tells us that staying awake for only 21 hours makes you perform no better than when you’re drunk as a skunk!
That’s a sobering thought!