The sound of sleep.
While sleep is something we all crave, it is also the thing we tend to neglect. This is especially true during times of stress or needed productivity, like finals time. We tend to rationalize it by balancing the loss of sleep with the extra time gained, hopefully increasing our productivity, only to catch up on sleep later. The problem is the negative side effects of limited sleep add up, and drastically effect how we operate. This is particularly true when studying for finals. Sleep is essential to properly preparing for finals, and helps us debunk the often tried, but never true, method of studying known as “cramming.”
Despite the best efforts of just about all college students, “cramming” simply does not work. Attempting to take in large amounts of knowledge in hours that should be learned over months has been proven to be ineffective, even beyond the resulting poor grades. When you study, information is first stored in the short-term memory section of your brain. For it to be fully “learned,” we must convert that information into long-term memory, and therefore be able to access and recall it later, like during an exam. Sleep is the tool by which we make this conversion. While you sleep, your brain continues to function, shuffling data around in your head. Think of your brain as a computer hard drive. When you learn the information, you are “downloading” it. However, it is first stored in the “downloads folder,” (short-term memory). This folder is frequently erased on every computer, allowing the computer to process new things. This is what your brain does frequently, resulting in the loss of short-term memories. For the computer, and our brain, to be fully effective, we must move the data into a folder where we can go back to access it later. During sleep, we essentially “click and drag” the file of information to a more permanent folder, one that we can access with ease at a later time. This is the conversion to long-term memory.
While the above theory has been proven by research and physiology, students still tend to ignore the lesson being taught. This finals season, treat your brain as a hard drive, and make sure to sleep to let your brain file away all that information you have worked so hard to learn. You want to be at your very best come exam day, and you have to be rested to be at tip-top shape.
Go get some sleep!