July 26, 2015 | John Paul Catanzaro
I wish I knew as much about sleep when I went to university as I do today. It would have been a much different experience.
When I think of how many Sunday workouts were wasted because I was out all night partying. There were a few times where I would show up to the gym, do my first set, and then just leave. When you’re not into it, you’re not into it! The odd time I’d try to gut it out and although the workout would suck, at least I’d make it out without injury.
Training is one thing; learning is another! How many nights did I go without sleep trying to complete an assignment or studying for an exam? I recall one year where I had 5 exams in 3 days. I didn’t get any sleep during that period. How I made it home after the final exam is beyond me? I remember walking into the house and my mom saying that dinner was almost ready. I didn’t even respond. I crawled up the stairs into bed and slept for a full day!
A better approach would have been to commence my studying much further in advance and get a good night’s rest each night during that exam period. Cramming is not a good way to learn. Your recollection the next day will be much like a workout after a night of partying: it will suck!
Sleep has so many important roles, one of them is to help consolidate your memories for that day. If you study hard and then get a good night’s rest, your brain will forge that information into your memory banks. When you wake up, you’ll be able to access that information as needed.
Working on an assignment is another area where sleep can help immensely. Your subconscious mind is far more powerful than your conscious mind. Often, your subconscious mind is able to solve a problem when it’s not clouded with conscious input. Sleep is a perfect environment for that.
When you’re working on an assignment, initially get all your thoughts down on paper (or on screen), and then sleep on it. Your brain will start to organize those thoughts. When you come back the following day, look out! Things will flow quite nicely. Your writing will seem effortless and ideas will simply pop into your head out of thin air. It’s the perfect cure for writer’s block. Just leave it, go on to something completely different, and sleep on it. Hand the baton off to your subconscious mind and it will take it from there.
Now as far as getting a good night’s rest is concerned, that’s another story altogether. One factor seems to trump the rest when it comes to deep sleep. A recent trip to Las Vegas confirmed it. I’ll tell you what that factor is next time.