Learn While you Sleep by monkey6

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									Learn While you Sleep.
Most of us think of sleep as a time of rest … a time when the brain
settles down, relaxes, and becomes quiet. After a busy day of attending classes,
talking with friends, studying, and stressing out, the brain finally gets to shut
down and take a break from it all. Sounds logical, right? Well, that’s not quite
what happens. Actually, when you’re asleep, your brain is continuing to learn the
material you’ve been exposed to during the day.

You Sleep, But Your Brain Works

Dozens of intriguing studies over the past several years show clearly
that your brain is active—very active—during sleep. (Reference 1-7) It’s busy doing
something miraculous, something that we can’t even come close to explaining.

Basically, your brain goes on automatic pilot. Without your being aware of it,
something inside your head comes alive and starts mulling over all the things
you learned that day. It sorts through them, organizes them, considers them,
calculates them, decides what’s important and what’s not.

From all the information that your brain soaked up during the day, it derives
meaning. It works through unsolved problems and somehow comes up with
answers. Its powers, however, extend even farther than that. A spooky awareness
speeds through neural circuits. As it does so, it changes the physical structure of
brain cells so that specific pieces of knowledge are etched more permanently in
memory. In the neurologic literature, these miraculous processes are referred to
as consolidation.

What your brain is doing, without any conscious effort on your part, includes:

   •   reviewing,
   •   sorting,
   •   organizing,
   •   prioritizing,
   •   problem solving, and
   •   memorizing.

All this is happening while you sleep! As you can see, effortless sleep-learning is
not only possible, it is a reality.


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The amazing truth is that learning continues after the actual studying is done. In
fact, research indicates the maximum benefit of all your hard hours of studying
comes about only after a good night’s sleep.

Furthermore, even though you may have stopped studying, knowledge and
skills continue to improve over several nights of sleep. Although sleep on the
first night following training offers the most dramatic benefit, subsequent nights
of sleep continue to provide smaller, less pronounced gains.(Reference 2)

Consolidation and Physical Skills

Athletes, pianists, surgeons, and video game addicts take note: This process
applies to learning not just information but motor skills as well. One recent study
showed that sleep after practice enhanced the speed of skilled motor
performance by 33.5 percent on average and reduced the error rate by 30 percent,
as compared with corresponding intervals of wakefulness.(Reference 7)

To extend this concept just a little bit further: Amazingly, learning does not stop
when practicing and studying end. It turns out that performance and learning
improvement occur not only during sleep but also during periods of
wakefulness. (Reference 2,7) After you finish reading a chapter, your brain goes to
work on that information over the next few hours, slowly learning and
consolidating it. This subconscious processing of learning information is above
and beyond what you did consciously during your actual study session.

An everyday example of this subconscious processing is the tip-of-the-tongue
phenomenon. Try as you might, when asked, to remember the name of a movie,
store, or restaurant, you may find that you can’t. But several minutes or even
hours later, it may come to you like a flash of lighting out of the blue. Why?
Without your conscious knowledge, that spooky awareness we talked about
earlier spreads through your neural networks, searching for the answer. When
your brain finally finds the item you were seeking, it tosses it back up for your
conscious mind to grasp. Imagine what happens when you throw a stone into a
pond: The effect of the stone upon the water does not cease at impact. Long after
the rock hits the water, waveforms slowly ripple out toward the periphery. So it
is with the mind. When you ask something of it, the neural reverberations of the
question (the “rock”) persist long after the question is asked.

Key Findings of Consolidation Research


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So what, in brief, do we know about how the brain consolidates information?




   •   Development of procedural/motor skills does not stop when practice
       ends but continues over hours.
   •   Development of memory does not stop when studying ends but continues
       over hours.
   •   Neural activities during sleep contribute significantly to the formation of
       different types of memories and skills.
   •   For a given period of sleep vs. one of wakefulness, consolidation will be
       greater with sleep.
   •   The first nightly sleep period after practicing or studying is extremely
       important for starting consolidation of the skill or memory. Going without
       this initial first night of sleep will have a very negative effect on the
       consolidation of that particular skill or memory.

Making the Most of Sleep Learning (consolidation)

You can use what you now know about sleep-learning to substantially improve
your performance in school and in other activities. Here are some techniques to
try out.

The Secrets of A+ Students

One common trait of top students is that they always seem to be several chapters
ahead of the rest of the class. Given how the brain works, there’s a huge
advantage to following this technique. If the professor gives the first exam four
weeks into the course, and the A+ students are already two weeks ahead from
the get-go, their subconscious minds have been consolidating, churning,
working, and memorizing the material effortlessly for a total of six weeks, while
the brain of the typical student has had just four weeks of study. This means that
their brains have been learning and consolidating the material for 50 percent
longer than most students’ brains have. No wonder they’re getting the A+!

Here’s a simple plan to try: Treat the first two weeks of the semester like the last
two weeks before finals. By the second week of the course, you’ll be several
chapters ahead of the rest of the class. Then slow down the pace and study the
rest of the semester at the same rate as the class (notice that you’ll always be
ahead by several chapters).


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Hard-To-Understand Items and Problems

Some school courses require rote memorization and are not mentally
challenging. Some, however, present concepts that are quite difficult to
understand. You might at times find yourself spending 30–45 minutes fixated on
one difficult problem or concept, struggling and becoming frustrated but not
really making any progress.

Try this instead: Work on the difficult concept for a short while, then move on,
and then go back to the issue several hours later. If you still haven’t overcome
the roadblock, return to problem the next day.

Walking away from something incomprehensible (or difficult to solve) allows
your spooky awareness to hammer away at the challenge. It will try to
understand the concept or come up with an answer without any conscious effort on
your part—sort of the way the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon happens. Chances
are good that when you come back to the problem, your subconscious will have
solved it or have at least come closer than where you were before. Spending 45
minutes struggling consciously with something is a huge waste of time and
mental resources.

Cramming

Let’s take two college students—Steven and John—as examples. It’s the end of
the semester, two weeks before the economics final exam. Steven studies
faithfully and regularly the whole semester. The last two weeks, he puts in an
average of one hour a night for review.

John, on the other hand, has not been so faithful and regular. He has done almost
no studying the whole semester. The last two weeks, he spends five hours a
night cramming for the exam. He goes to bed around 3–4 A.M.

In the past two weeks, John has studied 70 hours. Over the semester he has
managed to put in 20 hours. In total, he has put in 90 hours studying for the
economics course. Steve has also put in 90 hours, but his studying time has been
distributed over the entire semester.

Observations: Steve has 90+ sessions of effortless sleep-learning and processing
on his side. John, who has done the vast majority of his studying the last two
weeks, has only about 24. Given what we’ve learned above—namely, that neural


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activity during sleep contributes significantly to memory and skill
formation—can you see whose studying will be markedly more effective?

Without doubt, cramming is counterproductive in that it does not take
advantage of automatic, effortless, and vitally important sleep-learning.
Experience shows that people who cram never come away from a class with as
deep and permanent an understanding of the material as those who study
regularly throughout the entire semester. If the same students were to be retested
a half-year later (as happens on national, standardized tests) or were required for
some reason to reproduce the knowledge at a later time (many courses build on
prior course knowledge), there is no question that the crammer would come up
short.

Before Sitting Down to Study

As mentioned above, every bit of information that enters your mind sets off
reverberations that last long after the initial encounter. Your brain processes
these echoes without your conscious awareness. Therefore, before sitting down
to read a chapter,

   •   skim through it, and
   •   take note of the introduction, headings, subheadings, tables, charts,
       diagrams, key words, and conclusions

Once your mind has been loaded with the basic scaffolding of the information
you’re about to acquire, it will automatically go to work trying to connect the
pieces. Your reading will therefore be more meaningful and go faster.

Give this a try: Do your chapter skimming 2–4 hours or even one day before
actually sitting down to read the chapter text word for word.

Test Taking

Recommendation: When you reach a difficult test question and can’t think of the
answer, come back to it later. Sometimes, when you return to the question, you’ll
find the answer has indeed come to you. You can even keep coming back to the
item several times (as time permits) if you don’t get the answer the first time you
return to the problem.




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Why does this recommendation work? As you move on to other test questions,
reverberations are set up in your brain, and that spooky awareness travels far
and wide looking for the answer—all on its own, without conscious awareness,
even while you are answering other test questions. Therefore, it’s not productive
to spend very long fretting and puzzling over a specific question. Move on, but
be sure to come back to the item later. You may need to give your brain several
prods before it comes up with the answer. Additionally, struggling too long on a
difficult test question will destroy your confidence and ruin your mindset for the
rest of the examination.

Take-Home Message

Those who fully understand the brain processes of sleep-learning and
consolidation are in a solid position to substantially improve performance in
school as well as other activities.

For the world’s best advice on how to master your sleep patterns, go to the Links
page at www.passingexams.net and follow the sleep expert link.

References:

1. Kali S, Dayan P. Off-line replay maintains declarative memories in a model of hippocampal-
neocortical interactions. Nat Neurosci. Mar 2004;7(3):286-294.

2. Walker MP, Brakefield T, Hobson JA, et al. Dissociable stages of human memory consolidation
and reconsolidation. Nature. Oct 9 2003;425(6958):616-620.

3. Maquet P, Schwartz S, Passingham R, et al. Sleep-related consolidation of a visuomotor skill:
brain mechanisms as assessed by functional magnetic resonance imaging. J Neurosci. Feb 15
2003;23(4):1432-1440.

4. Pennartz CM, Uylings HB, Barnes CA, et al. Memory reactivation and consolidation during
sleep: from cellular mechanisms to human performance. Prog Brain Res. 2002;138:143-166.

5. Hoffman KL, McNaughton BL. Sleep on it: cortical reorganization after-the-fact. Trends
Neurosci. Jan 2002;25(1):1-2.

6. Peigneux P, Laureys S, Delbeuck X, et al. Sleeping brain, learning brain. The role of sleep for
memory systems. Neuroreport. Dec 21 2001;12(18):A111-124.

7. Fischer S, Hallschmid M, Elsner AL, et al. Sleep forms memory for finger skills. Proc Natl Acad
Sci U S A. Sep 3 2002;99(18):11987-11991.

8. Smart-kit.com - source

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