How To Supercharge Learning

Before An Important Exam- Take A Nap!

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Seriously! Sleep is now understood as an integral part of a learning process in people and animals. But don’t take my word for it.

Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, a place where they teach rats tricks and watch their sleep, or as they call it “study the role of sleep in learning and memory formation” found a strong correlation between sleep and learning. “Research suggests that sleep plays an important role in memory, both before and after learning a new task.”

Memory in scientific terms is understood to have 3 components:

  • Acquisition – introduction of new information into the brain
  • Consolidation– the processes by which a memory becomes stable
  • Recall – the ability to access the information (whether consciously or unconsciously) after it has been stored

Sleep affects all three parts of memory.  You need to be well rested for optimum acquisition. Nothing new here. What we are discovering though, and by “we” I mean people in white lab coats with Harvard insignia, is that sleep is crucial for consolidation and recall.

Mastering Sleeping

Beanie’s boys know it already! These smarty pants take their learning very seriously. Every new experience is followed by a nap. Some intensely new experiences call for an immediate and total collapse into sleep.

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tasting new food results in a sleep collapse into a dish bowl

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the boys investigate the new water bowl and collapse into sleep around it and INTO it!

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Nugget fast asleep with a foot in water

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Derby can’t believe how much he learned today

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Yea, I know that cuteness factor again! So distracting.

A young puppy has so much to learn. Every day brings enormous amount of new information. The amount of sleep required to actually process that information and to form new neural connection is proportionately enormous.

They sleep DSC_5022and sleep DSC_5062and sleep. DSC_5079

And every time they wake up they are literally different puppies, with new brains, new memories formed, new understanding of the environment, new ability to navigate it.

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Napping And Dog Training Classes

One of the most understated and undervalued processes is sleep as a part of dog’s learning – and not just in puppyhood! I cannot tell you just how many times I repeated the same advice to owners of young dogs bred by me not to exert and mentally overtire their dogs during training classes. Most classes last an hour. A good trainer will rotate the dogs through learning exercises, give age appropriate breaks and never work a dog past fatigue. However, less experienced owners often feel obliged and pressured to have their dogs “pay attention” for excessively and unreasonably long stretches of time. A dog asked to perform a new task for too long or asked for too many repetitions will not learn the task as easily as a dog trained in short, high-attention span blocks of time. You are not getting your money’s worth by squeezing every minute of the class time.

The take-away is this – structure rest and sleep into your puppy’s day and your puppy and adult dog’s training. You’ll be glad you did. And by the way, the same is true for people, so before any important exam the best way to consolidate memory is to take a nap. And if you ask me, the very best way to take a nap is with your pup!

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One Response to How To Supercharge Learning

  1. Pingback: Baby Steps Or Rather Puppy Steps Of Training | dignblog

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