Ah, Ramadan in the UAE. A blessed time, for sure. A time to reflect, to practice discipline, to detox the mind and body.... and one of the worst times of the year for SLEEP!! Whether you're fasting or not, whether you're waking up for suhoor (pre-dawn refueling meal) or are just hanging out late after Iftar to maximize those non-fasting hours of the day, your sleep cycle is out of whack! Not a big deal, of course. But allow me to remind you that a good night's sleep is beneficial to the following areas of life, among other: regulating your nutrition (i.e. cravings and weight); strengthening your immune system; lowering risk of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes; improving your mood and even your appearance (anyone up to speed on their beauty sleep??). One underrated benefit of sleep is how much it helps us with LEARNING. For our kids in particular, this last bit is especially important. Proper sleep helps with learning before, during and after. "How" you say? Let's see together!
1. BEFORE: CLEARING SPACE FOR TODAY'S LESSON
Our brains are fantastic, but in terms of storage, they're also limited! Learning a new topic requires us to create new memories. These new memories are stored in the hippocampi (singular: hippocampus), which are small seahorse-shaped parts of the brain heavily involved in learning and memory. If you fill up your hippocampus, it'll be unable to store any new information, or quite possibly even overwrite some of the memories already in there! When we sleep, however, the memories in the hippocampus (a smaller, temporary storage) are transferred to the cortex (safer, larger, long-term storage), clearing the way for new info to be learned and remembered the next day! This transfer happens during the NREM (non-rapid eye movement) stage of sleep; that's the non-dream one in case you're curious. Make sure your kids their rest the day before big lessons the next day.
2. DURING: FOSTERING FOCUS & COGNITION
Without a good night's sleep, students will have a hard time paying attention. (This is assuming, of course, that they were paying attention in the first place!) Nevertheless, it's now been proven time and again that getting enough quality sleep helps with focus and concentration, which are essential to learning anything new. Another point to consider is the effect of the wonderful stage of rapid eye movement sleep (REM), which involves dreaming. During REM sleep, our brain replays the day's experiences and newly-formed memories in an incredible and preposterous way that one couldn't come up with they tried. One of the reasons that dreams often contain surreal elements comes from the fact that our brain is making connections between various, non-related parts of the mind. This integration helps enormously with problem solving abilities, with understanding the world around us, as well as with developing our creativity. Getting enough sleep is critical to enhance students' ability to learn in the classroom itself.
3. AFTER: SAVING THE NEW INFORMATION
Another benefit to learning that sleep offers is related to that time after we've learned something. During NREM sleep, the new memories (facts we've learn) are transferred from the hippocampus to our cortex, which is more like a "hard drive", to be saved so they won't be forgotten anymore! This process is called consolidation, and it takes sleep in order to achieve this transfer from short-term to long-term memory. It is a splendid display of irony: whereas the passage of time is normally associated with forgetting something, during sleep it actually serves to strength memories. Basically, sleep not only allows you to free up your short-term storage so you can learn new information in the before stage, but it also moves all new information into long-term storage after you've learned it!
Answer will follow soon!
JUST FOR LAUGHS!
Anyone else feel like this sometimes?? Well, at least you're practicing math!
Until next time!