Preparing to Learn
Learning is about far more than sitting in a hard chair at a desk and opening a book or researching online resources and consuming the information they provide. Learning starts long before those moments when you are actively engaged in new materials and experiences. To take full advantage of active learning time you need to prepare yourself long in advance.
The next few blog posts will be focused on the less obvious ways in which we can prepare our children for the most productive learning when arriving for a tutoring session, heading to school for the day or preparing to home school.
A full night of restful sleep is the number one way we can prepare ourselves and our children to learn new skills, increase knowledge and boost understanding. Termed “sleep hygiene,” the practice and habits that lead to sufficient, restful, rejuvenating sleep ensure we are mentally, emotionally and physically ready for the next day’s activities (barring other complicating factors). Sufficient, restful sleep leaves you feeling awake, energized for your day and resourced enough to take on the challenges you may face.
Sleep benefits the learner by lowering stress levels, increasing stamina, encouraging or allowing creativity, heightening the ability to maintain attention and increasing memory. The rested brain is more accepting of new information because it has the resources it needs to function at full capacity. Reducing the stress of insufficient sleep allows the cognitive processes involved in learning to be engaged more readily. A sluggish brain will struggle to process new information, forge new networks and access already retained information. Every effort is exaggerated and exhausting, compounding the problem by increasing stress and fatigue. A rested brain is hungry for new information ready to take on the task at hand utilizing earlier learning and suggesting novel ways to apply this new information. A rested brain wants to see what’s on the menu for the day and to get to work on it.
Sleep is also vitally important after learning has occurred. The act of learning is not complete when we first encounter the new information or skill, this just step one. Step two is consolidating the information into a usable long term resource that we can access for later learning or use. Only sufficient, restful sleep is going to allow us to take our new learning and process it, otherwise we will find ourselves doomed to learn the same information or skill again the next time we are faced with it. Sleep is key to the entire learning process. (For a more complex understanding of how sufficient, restful sleep supports learning visit Harvard’s healthy sleep education website here.)
The Mayo clinic offers a quick guide to getting a good night’s sleep for most people just needing a bit of guidance. In general sticking to a regular sleep schedule; eating and drinking foods that support rest before bed; limiting naps; ensuring you are physically active throughout the day and managing your stress level all support your ability to sleep deeply and awake rejuvenated.
Help you child get the most out of their learning by creating healthy sleep habits.