I stumbled on an old website that debunked a lot of popular brain myths, many of which I believed, with the ultimate goal to help you more efficiently learn a language. Here are some excerpts:
Myth: Memory gets worse as we age. Aging universally affects all organs. 50% of 80-year-olds show symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Hence the overwhelming belief that memory unavoidably gets rusty at an older age. Fact: It is true we lose neurons with age. It is true that the risk of Alzheimer’s increases with age. However, a well-trained memory is quite resilient and shows comparatively fewer functional signs of aging than the joints, the heart, the vascular system, etc. Moreover, training increases the scope of your knowledge, and paradoxically, your mental abilities may actually increase well into a very advanced age[…]
Myth: Learning while sleeping. An untold number of learning programs promises you to save years of life by learning during sleep. Fact: It is possible to store selected memories generated during sleep by: external stimuli, dreams, hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations (i.e. hallucinations experienced while falling asleep and while waking up). However, it is nearly impossible to harness this process into productive learning. The volume of knowledge that can be gained during sleep is negligible. Learning in sleep may be disruptive to sleep itself. Learning while sleeping should not be confused with the natural process of memory consolidation and optimization that occurs during sleep… Learning while sleeping is not only a complete waste of time. It may simply be unhealthy[…]
Myth: Night shifts are unhealthy. Fact: People working in night shifts are often forced out of work by various ailments such as a heart condition. However, it is not night shifts that are harmful. It is the constant switching of the sleep rhythm from day to night and vice versa. It would be far healthier to let night shift people develop their own regular rhythm in which they would stay awake throughout the night. It is not night wakefulness that is harmful. It is the way we force our body do things it does not want to do[…]
Myth: People who sleep less live longer. In 2002, Dr Kripke compared the length of sleep with longevity (1982 data from a cancer risk survey). He figured out that those who sleep 6-7 hours live longer than those who sleep 8 hours and more. No wonder that a message started spreading that those who sleep less live longer. Fact: The best longevity prognosis is ensured by sleeping in compliance with one’s natural body rhythm. Those who stick to their own good rhythm often sleep less because their sleep is better structured (and thus more refreshing). “Naturally sleeping” people live longer. Those who sleep against their body call, often need to clock more hours and still do not feel refreshed. Moreover, disease is often correlated with increased demand for sleep. Infectious diseases are renowned for a dramatic change in sleep patterns. When in coma, you are not likely to be adding years to your life. Correlation is not causation[…]
Myth: Alarm clock can help you regulate the sleep rhythm. Fact: An alarm clock can help you push your sleep rhythm into the desired framework, but it will rarely help you accomplish a healthy sleep rhythm. The only tried-and-true way to accomplish a healthy sleep and a healthy sleep rhythm is to go to sleep only when you are truly sleepy, and to wake up naturally without external intervention
The article took a while to read but it contains a reasoned approach that urges respect for your brain and its limitations instead of seeking shortcuts that make the task of memorization harder. As a result of what I learned, I stopped using an alarm clock. It’s been two weeks and I have a better understanding of exactly how much time my brain needs for rest (between 7 and 8 hours) for peak performance the next day. Paradoxically, I now go to bed earlier knowing that an alarm clock will not save me from the needed time that my brain needs to sleep.
If you keep your brain active with memorization, it’s important to have an optimized routine that better retains what you’ve spent so much time learning. Otherwise you’re wasting valuable time.
Read More: The Art Of Learning