Health

As in most human activities, general health helps to achieve better results in the process of learning. It increasingly becomes a common knowledge how to keep healthy and fit. It may still, however, be useful to list the most important principles that should be remembered by every student:

  • Sufficient amount of sleep. It is during sleep that the conversion of short-term to long-term memories takes place. Particularly, the REM phase of sleep is valuable, and each all-nighter reduces the proportion of REM sleep in the next night. Intense intellectual work may cause increased demand for sleep, and nothing should prevent the student from satisfying it. No one has ever benefited from trying to save time by sleeping less. By trying to emulate Edison, the student is bound to reduce his or her performance. Tiredness caused by lack of sleep is one of the main factors that can ruin a SuperMemo session. On the other hand, 40 minutes of SuperMemo a day are likely to increase your natural demand for sleep by up to one hour!

  • Physical exercise is absolutely necessary for every successful student. Without it, the respiratory and circulatory systems cannot adapt easily to increased demand for oxygen in intense intellectual work. An unfit student tends to be drowsy and cannot maintain the sufficient level of alertness in long sessions with SuperMemo. Pains of the back, eye strain, hemorrhoidal problems, gastrointestinal disorders, repetitive strain injury, and many other ailments of a hard-working student are greatly prevented by a high level of fitness in physically active individuals. Sports that result in a long-lasting increase in the heart rate and oxygen consumption, e.g., jogging, skating on rollerblades, intense cycling, swimming, etc. are particularly recommended.

  • It is a common knowledge that smoking and alcohol are major preventable causes of a great spectrum of disorders that not only interfere with the process of learning, but are also dangerous to health and, in the long run, life. Alcoholism is notorious for its toxic effects to the brain, and is a major environmental cause of senile dementia (loss of memory in old age). It is also known to reduce the number of NMDA receptors in the brain (receptors involved in memory), and to reduce retention in recall memory tests. It affects both short and long-term memory. Smoking is most renowned for its contribution to heart disease and cancer; however, even for a student who is not much concerned with his or her own future, it is worth noting that smoking also causes hypertension, increased excitability of the nervous system, cerebral hypoxia (reduced oxygenation of the brain) and many other effects that are highly undesirable in learning.

  • Adequate nutrition is indispensable in successful learning. It is difficult to specify particular guidelines except for the fact that the foods consumed should comply with what is generally considered a healthy diet. For example, everybody knows from one's own experience that a satisfying lunch makes one more inclined to get down to learning, but on the other hand, research demonstrates that the level of mental alertness drops substantially after a meal. It is also known that a low-fat diet prevents arteriosclerosis and should be considered desirable. However, another research shows that reduced blood level of lipoproteins (a group of fat components) has a negative influence on the performance in intelligence tests. An average, healthy diet should satisfy all the nutritional needs of a student, so that no supplements shall be necessary. Regular administration of vitamins, particularly B and C, or mineral preparations, however, might be of preventive value.

  • Tea and coffee are used by many people as stimulants, especially in case of sleep deficit. While having a positive effect on the alertness, high levels of caffeine and teophylline (active compounds of coffee and tea) may cause restlessness, problems with concentration and, worst of all, sleep disturbances. Both drinks, as well as all sorts of caffeine-containing colas, should be used with moderation.

  • In the state of rest, the brain uses only a small proportion of oxygen that is bound to hemoglobin in the lungs. However, in cases of intense intellectual work, it may use up 30 or more percent of total oxygen. As you will observe, SuperMemo is a particularly tiring technique, primarily because it forces your brain to work at its top gear (repetitions are scheduled at possibly the longest intervals). An average, untrained student will experience an overwhelming drowsiness as soon as after 20 minutes of continuous repetitions. Most of individuals find it impossible to work with SuperMemo for more that 1 hour, and each minute beyond that limit may bring a genuine mental torture. This entails the great importance of the availability of fresh air in the room when the learning takes place. Sufficient amount of sleep, fresh air and enthusiasm for work are the best allies of a student who wishes to spend long sessions with SuperMemo and to produce fabulous results.

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