An interesting article over at BBC.com suggests memory can be improved with regular periods of rest/quiet contemplation.
The author David Robson cites research stretching back to the turn of the 20th century that shows that memory for content (e.g. lists, stories, location of landmarks in virtual environment) is improved by giving individuals small breaks following study periods (6 to 10 minutes), in contrast to getting them to use that time for more study or common distractions (e.g. using your mobile phone).
It is thought that periods of rest improve the consolidation of memories from short-term memory to long-term memory. This is why it is recommended that people get good sleep during periods of study for exams, as sleep time is known to be a period of consolidation of memories.
Current studies however suggest a similar effect can be achieved through wakeful rest.
How to apply it in your own life
Research is still sketchy on how exactly to apply these findings to everyday learning, as the results are from studies in which individuals are asked to memorise single lists or stories. In contrast, when you are learning for exams, you are trying to learn significantly more material.
However there are a few things you can try, based on the research, that may help you improve your memory for content you are trying to learn.
- Schedule regular rest periods during your study time. For example, you might schedule 10 minutes of rest time for every 50 minutes of study.
- During that rest time, remove all distractions. Turn off the lights. Leave your phone off. Close your eyes. Just let your mind wander.
- Maintain or improve existing good sleep habits – https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/public-information/fact-sheets-a-z/187-good-sleep-habits.html
Interested in more memory tips? Stay tuned for the new OASIS website, on which I will be writing a blog on mental fitness, which includes improving you memory.