February 26, 2016

The Art of Sleep

Getting the golden “8 hours of sleep” is often difficult for university students. Sharon Stearns, student learning advisor with the Student Success Centre, shares tips on how to get improve the sleep you get at night and, when you don’t get enough sleep, the best kind of nap for you.

At a certain point during the university term, excitement and best intentions begin to fade under mounting assignments and obligations. Eventually, fatigue becomes the default state, as students begin to sacrifice sleep in order to keep up.

And yet, practicing productive sleep hygiene, or the behaviors and conditions that support effective sleep, is essential for university students. All the learning done during the day can be undermined by not getting appropriate sleep at night. In fact, students’ brains are quite active during sleep doing the following:
  • rehearsing and consolidating material learned that day,
  • preparing the brain to learn on the following day, and
  • clearing out toxic waste accumulated during waking hours.  
Nonetheless, university students are notorious for maintaining erratic and inadequate sleep schedules. While sleep needs can vary by genetic and environmental influences, most experts agree that adults require an average of 8 hours of sleep a day for optimal physical and cognitive functioning. At the absolute minimum, students should strive for six hours to facilitate memory consolidation.

Taming your technology to deal with distractions

How much of your time in a day is spent using technology? Mebbie Bell, associate director of learning resources, shares some of the best strategies for reducing time wasted with technology and increasing time spent focused on your academics. 

Many of us feel beholden — even shackled — to our smartphones and other useful technologies. Though you may enjoy your friends’ messages or the apps and programs that make life a little easier, you may feel obligated to check your phone every ten minutes for notifications. It is also just as easy to get sucked into the long stream of links from one interesting article to another, stealing your time before you realize you have been clicking for two hours. In other words, your best intentions to study, research, read, or write may be all too often derailed by the ever-present technology around you.

As you need both mental space and time to learn effectively, try one or more of these strategies to make your technologies work for you instead of adding stress and distractions.

How not to drown in red ink: responding effectively to critiques of your writing

Rob Desjardins, graduate writing advisor with the Student Success Centre, shares his insights on criticisms in academic writing and how to turn them into positive tools for revision. 

One day not so many years ago, a lone figure was sitting in a grad student lounge, staring gloomily at a splotchy piece of paper. The student was me; the paper was a draft assignment I had submitted to an academic mentor, and the spots of red ink, which outnumbered the words I had typed, were his comments and suggestions.

So many comments…and so much criticism. As I gazed over the page, I felt mentally paralyzed. Where could I start to address his feedback? Should I even bother? Was my work salvageable, or should I just shuffle back to the drawing board? 

After about 15 minutes, the mentor himself passed by and, seeing me sitting there stunned and immobile, called out cheerfully: “Don’t be daunted by my criticisms!” I tried to smile, but all I could think was: “Easier said than done.”

That, as I said, was some years ago. There have been many mentors, many editors, and many red pens since then; and I have gotten used to seeing my work scribbled over and doodled-up, questioned and interrogated. I find it easier than ever before to accept and respond to editorial criticism — to shake off the sense of disorientation (and even the pangs of defensiveness) it sometimes brings. Doing so, as I tell my students, involves three steps: letting the emotions dissipate, analyzing the criticism dispassionately, and coming up with a plan to address them in consultation with the mentor. Nine times out of ten, these steps trace out a revision process that’s simpler than we might expect.