Imagine you had a way to spend less time studying, learn more, reduce stress, be happier and be healthier. You can do it in 20 minutes a day and it requires no special training. Sound like I’m selling some wonder cure on a TV infomercial?
Actually, I’m not selling anything. It’s totally free. It’s a tool you can implement today with your CPA review course.
What is this wonder cure? Sleep…or more specifically, naps.
You can nap your way to success on the CPA exam, and you should if you want to spend your time most effectively and efficiently.
A nap is like clearing out your inbox and rebooting your brain. Your brain runs more efficiently and can accept more incoming information after a nap.
Some of the smartest and most productive people in the world and throughout history cite napping as critical to their success.
From famous actors to CEO’s to US Presidents and war-time heads of state, many of history’s most powerful and productive people have made naps a crucial part of their daily routine. If Churchill, Edison, Rockefeller, JFK, and Eleanor Roosevelt could find time in their crazy schedules to nap every day, surely you can too. Churchill, in fact, stated repeatedly that his afternoon nap helped him get twice as much done every single day.
There is a stigma with taking naps that people who do so are lazy. The research and results don’t support that idea, though.
The Science Of Sleep
In a study at the University of California, students were given a learning task at 12:00 PM and then again 6 hours later at 6:00 PM. One group of students took a nap at some point during the 6 hour break and another group did not.
The study found 2 very interesting things.
First, those who did not take a nap had a deterioration in their learning capability of approximately 12% at the 6:00 PM test as compared to the test just 6 hours earlier.
Second, those who did take a nap not only performed better than those who did not, but they also performed about 6% better than their earlier 12:00 test.
The study showed conclusively that without napping, performance degrades, and with napping, performance actually improves.
Think of it this way…the research is conclusive that our attention and focus wears down throughout the day. So, if you spend 4 hours at the end of the day in unfocused effort at 88% of your capability, that is worse than taking a 20 minute nap and spending 3.5 hours at the end of the day in focused effort at 106% of your capability.
Based on the findings from the study, you would accomplish more with the nap and in less time than without the nap. You would also retain and recall the information more efficiently.
So, even though napping may sound at first like it is counter-productive to getting through your study session, the opposite is actually true. A quick 20-30 minute nap will actually help you learn faster.
“Emerging scientific evidence suggests that naps — even very short ones — significantly enhance cognitive function,” – Dr. Jonathan Friedman, Director of the Texas Brain and Spine Institute
The longer you are awake, the harder it is for your brain to store new information.
Sleeping Helps You Learn…And Lack Of Sleep Prevents You From Learning
In fact, the same research team at the University of California found that lack of sleep decreases your ability to learn by as much as 40%. Even if you are awake and staring at a screen, is that a good use of your time if you are only operating at 60% of your capacity?
Not only does a nap in the afternoon help you to be more productive for the rest of the day, but sleeping after you have studied also helps your brain learn and retain the information you just studied.
Another study showed that sleep is critical in learning new skills. Even one night of poor sleep after learning something new is enough to negate any learning that may have taken place.
The study showed that testing on the same day as the training showed no significant improvement, but testing the following day showed “highly significant” improvement provided people got enough sleep, even without additional practice.
In a separate study, people were given a complex problem to solve. Some participants tried to solve it while remaining awake and others took naps and then came back to try the problem again.
After sleeping, participants were two-times as likely to solve the problem when compared with subjects who spent the same amount of time awake. These result add to the evidence that sleep improves cognitive performance.
Still another study showed that sleep is critical to learning new information.
From the study: “Sleep has been identified as a state that optimizes the consolidation of newly acquired information in memory.”
The biggest risk with all of this is that you sleep too long. You need to find the right amount of sleep for you. A 20 minute nap is a good place to start for ensuring you wake up refreshed, alert, and ready to learn. You may find that a 30 minute or 90 minute nap works better for you, but you’ll have to try it to be sure.
The same goes with your sleep through the night. Maybe you perform best on 7 hours sleep, or maybe you need 9 hours. The only way to know is to try it.
How To Use This To Pass The CPA Exam
Sleep helps move memories from short-term memory to long-term memory, which is more permanent. Although many theories exist as to why this is the case, none have yet been identified as the true cause. What is conclusive; however, is that sleep is a huge multiplier for your ability to learn and remember new information.
“We are exposed to certain pieces of information, but if we get to sleep on it, the sleep seems to facilitate the transfer of information from the short-term memory bank into the more permanent memory bank.” – Dr. Suresh Kotagal, Professor of Neurology at the Mayo Clinic
The studies on sleep and learning are too numerous to go through all of them here, but it is clear that if you are not getting enough sleep, you are only operating at a fraction of your mental capacity. You are putting yourself at a significant disadvantage compared to others taking the CPA exam.
If you build in a 20 minute nap during your study days and schedule your study session right before you plan to go to bed you will learn more in less time. This is studying smarter, not harder.