As college students, many of us tend tend to believe that cramming and pulling all nighters are beneficial to our grades. However, despite popular belief, taking study breaks are extremely beneficial for both the grades as well as one’s health. Scientists are finding more and more about the nature of our brain’s attention spans and how the brain demonstrates that even brief distractions or time away from the material can dramatically improve an individuals ability to focus on tasks for prolonged periods of time.
For example, in 2011, psychology professor Alejandro Lleras of the University of Illinois conducted a randomized control study in which eighty four subjects were divided into four groups that all performed the same repetitive, computerized task for 50 minutes. All four groups were given a set of numbers prior to the start of the 50 minute study and were told to state if they saw these numbers at any point during the trials. Three of these four groups were not given breaks and as time went on, their ability to identify the numbers decreased as the one controlled group who were given three-five minute breaks managed to score significantly higher.
Not taking breaks while putting our brains through long periods of strain would be the equivalent of putting our bodies muscles through an intense workout without giving them a time to rest. Eventually, our bodies would give out in the form of physical injury or a potential lose of consciousness. Same goes with our brains. According to Amy Arnsten, professor of neurobiology at Yale University, long periods of mental strain and stress during times such as cramming for an exam to prolonged periods of work can cause our brains to “short-circuit” in the sense that we stop taking in information and more times than not, will forget or disregard what it is we have previously studied or work on. This has obvious repercussions on say an exam in which hours upon hours of studying could go to waste if the brain is to be overworked.
Working our brains is perfectly okay to do, but overworking them can take a toll on it’s health. Studying is clearly done best with taking some sort form of a break. MIT recommends that working for 50 minutes with a ten minute break is the most beneficial and efficient way for one to study. Rethinking your study habits can drastically improve both your grades and overall mental health.
This video provides more insight as to how beneficial taking study breaks truly are.