kitchen table math, the sequel: sleep

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Last summer I learned that heat and math don't mix.

Yesterday I learned that heat, humidity and no sleep are catastrophically incompatible with a timed 25-minute math section in the Blue Book.

Sitting outside in the heat and humidity, not consciously feeling the effects of a short night's sleep, I missed: 6 questions out of 20. Six. All of them rated E (for Easy) or M (for Medium).

I answered question 20 correctly. Question 20 is the one tutors tell you not to even attempt unless you're trying for an 800. That I could do.

Number 19, I got right, too.

But the question where all you had to do was read the y value on the y axis --- no. Got that one wrong.

Or the question where you were supposed to find the absolute value of the sum of two negative numbers. Wrong again.

For years I've been reading about all the bad things that happen to people who don't get enough sleep. Sleep loss causes inflammation; sleep loss causes weight gaint; sleep loss screws up your memory; etc., etc, etc.

After yesterday, I'm a believer:
When researchers put test subjects in environments without clocks or windows and ask them to sleep any time they feel tired, 95 percent sleep between seven and eight hours out of every 24. Another 2.5 percent sleep more than eight hours. That means just 2.5 percent of us require less than 7 hours of sleep a night to feel fully rested. That's 1 out of every 40 people.

When I ask people in my talks how many had fewer than 7 hours of sleep several nights during the past week, the vast majority raise their hands. That's true whether it's an audience of corporate executives, teachers, cops or government workers. We've literally lost touch with what it feels like to be fully awake.

Great performers are an exception. Typically, they sleep significantly more than the rest of us. In Anders Ericcson's famous study of violinists, the top performers slept an average of 8 ½ hours out of every 24, including a 20 to 30 minute midafternoon nap some 2 hours a day more than the average American.

The top violinists also reported that except for practice itself, sleep was second most important factor in improving as violinists.
Sleep is more important than food.
Tony Schwartz
The Official SAT Study Guide, 2nd edition


PWN the SAT said...

Between my sophomore and junior years of college, I got a job as a groundskeeper at a golf course. It was awful in just about every way -- my feet were soaked through within 10 mins of starting work every day, I was exposed to all sorts of dangerous pesticides, my boss was a racist -- but the worst was that it was half an hour from home and work started at 5 AM. I was determined to squeeze as much fun as I could out of what I knew would be my last summer ever in my hometown, so I stayed out late most nights, then left the house for work each morning at 4:20 AM.

I can remember maybe a tenth of all the fun I had that summer. When you don't sleep, you don't remember things. Period.

Catherine Johnson said...

I can remember maybe a tenth of all the fun I had that summer. When you don't sleep, you don't remember things. Period.

I love it!

Catherine Johnson said...

It's true: memory "consolidation" happens while you sleep ---- !