I'm happier - and I can teach better - when I've had enough sleep, so it's been a priority of mine for many years now. Recently, I've been hearing about how important sleep is for our health and our brains. The article I read just now (Snooze or Lose, at NY Magazine) gives even stronger evidence than I've seen before. This paragraph got me started writing this post:
In Edina, Minnesota, an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, the high school start time was changed from 7:25 a.m. to 8:30. The results were startling. In the year preceding the time change, math and verbal SAT scores for the top 10 percent of Edina’s students averaged 1288. A year later, the top 10 percent averaged 1500, an increase that couldn’t be attributed to any other variable.A combined score of 1500 is in the top 1% of all test takers. 1288 is in the top 15 to 20%. This is a huge jump. The article gives detail about how sleep helps us learn too:
Dr. Matthew Walker of UC Berkeley explains that during sleep, the brain shifts what it learned that day to more efficient storage regions of the brain. Each stage of sleep plays a unique role in capturing memories. For example, studying a foreign language requires learning vocabulary, auditory memory of new sounds, and motor skills to correctly enunciate new words. The vocabulary is synthesized by the hippocampus early in the night during “slow-wave sleep,” a deep slumber without dreams. The motor skills of enunciation are processed during Stage 2 non-rem sleep, and the auditory memories are encoded across all stages. Memories that are emotionally laden get processed during R.E.M. sleep.
At the end is a companion article about how to get more sleep. The bit of advice I found most helpful is to limit exposure to tv or computer screens in the last hour or two before bed. I guess if I want to sleep more soundly, I'd better stop surfing a bit earlier.
(Kudos to Rebecca Zook, who posted about this in her blog, Triangle Suitcase.)