Sustainable Studying

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Chances are your exam period is split into a few sections of intense studying, stressing, no sleep, and lots of energy drinks versus sleeping all day to catch up those crazy few days. I went through all of that several times, and I wish that I knew what I do today to go through that period again and do it right (for my body!)

Here are a few facts for the students studying for that A in Biology, and for the average person who is wondering why they might always tired (either way, I was definitely wrong about a couple of questions!):

Q: A good night’s sleep can improve memory and boost creativity. True or false?

TRUE: Recent research shows that sleep actually strengthens, reorganizes, and restructures our memories. While we sleep we hold on to the most emotional parts of our memories.
Subjects were shown a scene with an emotional object such as a car wreck. After a full night’s sleep, subjects were more likely to recall the car wreck (the emotional object) rather than a palm tree in the background.

During sleep the areas of our brain that govern emotion and memory consolidation are at work. Researchers hypothesize that this nighttime brain activity may be what helps us to develop creative new ideas.

Q: Staying up late doesn’t harm our health as much as pulling an all-nighter. True or false?

FALSE: In a recent study on rats, researchers restricted the animals’ sleep to four hours a night for five nights. The effect on the rats’ brains was similar to the effect of acute total sleep deprivation, what we experience when we pull an all-nighter.

We assume that we can always catch up on sleep, but researchers caution that a lack of sleep can be harmful. Even mild sleep restriction for a couple of nights can detrimentally affect a person’s ability to perform cognitive tasks, such as work-related tasks or driving.

When researchers measured the rats’ brain waves, they discovered that slow wave activity increased even while the rats were awake, indicating a need for sleep.
Research has also shown that restricted sleep can increase our resistance to insulin, which can increase our risk of developing diabetes.

Q: The number of hours we sleep has no effect on our weight. True or false?

TRUE and FALSE: If we want to lose body fat, researchers tell us we need to get a good night’s sleep. In a small study, 10 women were put on a 1,450-calorie-a-day diet for 14 days and slept 8.5 hours a night. During this period, they lost 6.6 pounds of weight, made up of 3.1 pounds of fat and 3.3 pounds of fat-free body mass.

For another 14 days, caloric restriction was the same, but subjects slept for 5.5 hours a night. Weight loss was identical in both periods. However, during the period of restricted sleep, the women lost 1.3 pounds of fat and 5.3 pounds of fat-free body mass.

Adequate sleep also helped control the dieters’ hunger by maintaining low levels of the hormone ghrelin that triggers feelings of hunger. (These facts were taken out of the Alive magazine, April 2011 edition)

Good luck with exams, and GET YOUR SLEEP!

-brigitte

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