Take a Break


In the not too distant future, my children are sure to come to me citing the 2007 study in the journal Pediatrics that says they should do the following things in the following order:

  1. Play video games.
  2. Do homework.
  3. Watch videos.

Nice try, kids. That's not exactly what the study says, but it does say that kids shouldn't play video games after doing their studies.

A New York Times article, Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction, cites the study, which was done at the German Sport University in Cologne.

The researchers looked at how [playing video games vs. watching a video] affected the boys’ brainwave patterns while sleeping and their ability to remember their homework in the subsequent days. They found that playing video games led to markedly lower sleep quality than watching TV, and also led to a “significant decline” in the boys’ ability to remember vocabulary words.

The New York Times article then references another study from the University of California at San Francisco:

Scientists have found that when rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory.

We're all already bombarded by attempts to distract us. The trick is to know the value of our attention. As Leigh Reyes said, "Attention is the mind’s currency. Once we’ve spent it, we can’t buy it back." In order to get the value out of that transaction, the mind needs downtime to process and retain what it's taken in.

If you want to make the most of your studies, don't put them off until the last minute. Get them done, then take a break and let your brain absorb what it's learned.

  1. Do homework.
  2. Take a break.

Photo by Bart van Maarseveen / CC BY-ND 2.0

One comment on "Take a Break"

  1. rob on January 22nd, 2012

    As much of a test of your commenting system as anything else, but I have to say I like the stuff you post. You're always interesting. Rob

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