After learning, grab a coffee and take a nap

You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.

Dr Seuss

Busy hands might be happy hands but the busier your mind, the less you can learn.

Sleeping after learning helps you remember what you’ve learned by encouraging your brain cells to make connections, which makes what you’ve learned ‘stick’. It isn’t just because moving straight onto something else after learning doesn’t give you a chance to consolidate what you’ve learned; it’s also because your brain physically grows connections between brain cells, forming new neural circuits, and that’s really what learning anything–a physical or a mental skill–is all about. Even as little as six minutes of sleep after learning can prevent your learning memories from breaking down and help you retain those new brain circuits (although a night’s sleep is better).

If you can’t bring yourself to study before bed or take a nano-nap in the office, try a short, 10-minute break. Just pausing after reading something you need to remember can make the material ‘stick’ by a substantial margin.

And where does the coffee come in, I hear you wonder–especially when most people think caffeine keeps them awake. Well, contrary to popular belief, there is apparently no correlation between coffee and insomnia. Coffee, more more precisely, the caffeine in coffee, helps put information you’ve learned into your long-term memory. A strong cup of instant coffee will do the trick when you don’t have the time or the inclination to brew up.

Or, put the two together. When you’re tired, grab a coffee and take a short (5 to 15 minute) nap. And, while we’re talking about coffee, although it doesn’t help you think, coffee is good for when you need to plod through boring, routine work. (Of course, too much coffee isn’t good for anyone and too much is an individual dose, dependent on your genes and how much coffee you’re used to.)

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