Top marks for sleep!
Sleep accounted for nearly 25% of the variance in academic performance in this Nature paper, one of dozens that point to just how much difference a good nights’ sleep will make to their ability to remember their lessons, think creatively and cope with the pressure of exams.
Sleep quality, duration, and consistency are associated with better academic performance in college students
So what’s the link with light?
Bright light in the morning sets your body clock so that you find it easier to fall asleep and get better-quality sleep too.
This paper explains Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep and mood
Bright ‘blue’ light (like the light from your screen) is like a cup of coffee for your brain It takes around two hours for that to wear off. Young peoples’ eyes are more sensitive to light than us older people so switching off is even more important for them. Blue blocking glasses? – there is no solid evidence that they really help as this literature review points out –
The effect of blue-light blocking spectacle lenses on visual performance, macular health and the sleep-wake cycle: a systematic review of the literature. And when they’re looking at the computer, they’re probably still surfing rather than winding down.
As the evenings get lighter, investing in black-out curtains or blinds – and making sure they power down their devices – will make a difference too. Even dim light will reduce the quality of sleep, insulin resistance and increase risk of depression and metabolic disorders too as this blog explains.
Sleeping with even a little bit of light isn’t good for your health, study shows
Spotlight on concentration
Students preparing for finals need to sleep, but they also need to be focused when they’re awake.
As a general rule, bright, ‘cool’-looking light tends to boost alertness and improve rapid-fire response, speed and accuracy in simple processing tasks. This experiment with the classic Stroop test showed more accurate responses under cool (4500k) than warm (2500k).
Warmer light has been linked to with more complex creative activities.
Effect of Light on Cognitive Function During a Stroop Task Using Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy
But these effects are complex and seem to depend on the time of day and other factors, as this paper explains:
Effects of Daytime Electric Light Exposure on Human Alertness and Higher Cognitive Functions: A Systematic Review
Many desk lamps offer the option to ‘tune’ or change the colour temperature so that they can adjust the atmosphere to suit the task or their mood (having two desk lamps with different lightbulbs will do the same job of course!) The key is to create a sense of control, even if it’s an illusion, especially when they feel demoralised or overwhelmed as this fascinating paper points out – Inducing illusory control ensures persistence when rewards fade and when others outperform us
One thing all the scientists agree on is that nothing beats a breath of fresh air in natural daylight. Encouraging regular breaks will reduce muscle and eye strain and headaches caused by dry eye syndrome so they can stay focused for longer.
Tidy desk, tidy mind…
As we get ready for the Easter break, make time for a spring clean. They may not want you to go anywhere near their room – my young nieces certainly don’t want intrusions from grown-ups – but let them know that an organised workspace will improve their working memory (Inability to suppress salient distractors predicts low visual working memory capacity) and help them to get down to work. A tidy space can even make them more likely to snack on an apple than a chocolate bar, especially if they are feeling a bit overwhelmed –
Clutter, Chaos, and Overconsumption: The Role of Mind-Set in Stressful and Chaotic Food Environments
What does clutter do to your brain and body?
Taking leaf out of Marie Kondo’s brilliant book might help as she explains just how much the places where you spend time reflect your state of mind. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
That doesn’t mean their desk should be a sterile box. To quote this fascinating study: relative to participants in a disorderly room, participants in an orderly room chose healthier snacks and donated more money. Experiment 2 showed that participants in a disorderly room were more creative than participants in an orderly room. Experiment 3 showed a predicted crossover effect: Participants in an orderly room preferred an option labeled as classic, but those in a disorderly room preferred an option labeled as ‘new’. Physical Order Produces Healthy Choices, Generosity, and Conventionality, Whereas Disorder Produces Creativity
A cluttered and untidy room can make it harder to switch off and get that memory-boosting sleep they so badly need — An Initial Investigation of the Relationship Between Insomnia and Hoarding
Slow and steady wins the day
It’s tempting at the weekend to let their schedule drift, especially over the holidays. But this is one of dozens of studies that show that just one hour’s difference in sleep and wake times between weekdays and weekends is enough to make adolescents grumpy and sleepy and get worse grades at school. irritability, Social jetlag among Japanese adolescents: Association with irritable mood, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and poor academic performance
and here are some simple optical illusions and cool ideas to create home-made Easter cards with the young – and not so young people in your life!
– 3D Optical illusion Peeps for Easter
this one is a paid version