October 8, 1997
Healthy studying habits emphasized
By Ravi Patel
Everyone at Stanford knows how to study hard, but rarely does one find students who approach their studies in a healthy way.
Students often become so wrapped up in studying that they forget the importance of staying healthy and its implications on the quality of studying time.
One area in which many students are not practicing healthy study habits is sleep. According to Douglas Daher, a staff psychologist for Student Health Services at Cowell Student Health Center, students tend to be sleep deprived. Although the amount of sleep a person needs varies from individual to individual, Daher said that a lack of sleep will affect a student's "ability to focus and to study."
He also added that sleep deprivation is cumulative in that, "if you do shortchange yourself, you have to make it up."
An important point about recovering from sleep deprivation is that a person does not need to exactly make up the same amount of time they missed the previous night. For example, if a person needs eight hours and only gets three one night, the next day the person should sleep a few more hours to make up for the loss, though a full five hours extra is not necessary.
Many people fight the urge to sleep with coffee, but according to Daher, "there is always a problem with using a stimulant. Forming habits of going beyond natural limits can be unhealthy."
Another problem students often face when studying is the inability to focus. Often, a student will find himself staring at a page, reading the same thing over and over without understanding it. When this problem occurs, Daher suggests that the students should take a break for a few minutes.
"Do a journal, check in with yourself for a few minutes and clear away distraction. Don't ignore competing drives," said Daher.
Another important component to healthy studying is physical activity. Incorporating physical activity into a daily schedule makes a person more alert and can improve studying efficiency.
Daher said that exercise is very important and that students should create an individual routine. He added that it is important to separate exercise from athletics. Unlike individual exercise, athletics often involve other people, and it's difficult to schedule athletic and group activities into a particular schedule. Daher suggested building individual activities into a routine such as walking or running every other day.
"Doing both athletics and exercise is great, but you have to make sure you get enough," said Daher.
Students can also help to make study time more effective by separating work form play. "People should decide to work or to play. Trying to work and wishing that you were doing something else takes away from working. Blowing off work and playing, then feeling guilty about not working detracts from play. If students make a clear distinction between when they are playing and working, both become more effective," Daher said.
Another important way to become a healthier student is to eat properly. Breakfast is an extremely important meal, but it is often skipped to get a few more minutes of sleep. However, eating a nutritious breakfast can help to keep a person awake and alert during morning classes.
Whether it's breakfast or exercise or sleep or play that takes the back burner in your study life, following these simple tips can help to increase the quality of your work without sacrificing too much quantity in terms of time spent studying.