It's that study time of year! In the next few weeks, many students in high school and college will take final exams (argh). As both a high school and then a college student, I would frequently pull all-nighters (an energy drink and snickers bar in hand) cramming for an exam the following day - that was until the Calculus exam. I spent the night before my Calculus exam studying at the library (yep it was open 24 hours) in an attempt to cram in absolutely everything. With no sleep going into the exam the next morning, I completely forgot how to derivate and integrate - it was a sleepy calculus disaster (I still have nightmares about it).
My grandfather, a professor of civil engineering at McGill University, always told me that on the night before an exam, ONE hour of sleep is equal to ONE hour of study! He is so right! No sleep has serious effects on our brain's ability to function. After an all-nighter, I am grumpy, groggy, irritable, and forgetful. Also, concentration becomes more difficult, and I have a short attention span.
According to Dr. Robert Stickgold, the purpose of sleep is to process information. In other words, while we are sleeping our brains are processing information received during the day. Dr. Stickgold and his colleagues at Harvard had 22 college students and 5 amnesiacs play the game Tetris. When the Tetris players went to sleep that night, researchers woke them up every few minutes during the first hour and asked them about their dreams or images. Most of the college students dreamt of small falling objects, while the amnesiacs forgot that they had played Tetris that day.
If I had gone to sleep before my Calculus exam (instead of pulling the all-nighter) I would have probably remembered how to integrate and derivate, and my results who have improved significantly. Sleep allows the brain to understand new information. To understand the complexity of the world is one of our brain's most difficult tasks, it needs more than our hours of awake time to get the job done.
Exams are about what you have learned and what you know, and not about how much you can cram into your brain the night before. Study, sleep, and do your best on the exam: easier said than done (I know)!
DON'T LOSE SLEEP OVER EXAMS!
Author's Note: This was submitted to the blog by Heather, one of our corespondents.
Editor's Note: For more blogs from Dr. Rabiah, visit Science Chicago's website at: http://www.sciencechicagoblog.com