Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Naps and grinding stones

I heard a lateral thinking riddle a few years ago that has stuck with me.  Two lumberjacks are working in adjacent plots and both work for eight hours.  One of the lumberjacks stops every hour for ten minutes and the other does not (I don't know if they ate) but the one who stopped chopping for ten minutes every hour chopped more trees.  How is that possible?
    The listener is expected to ask various questions, perhaps about the size or strength of the two men, and the speaker answers "yes", "no" or "not relevant" or other simple answers.

  The correct reason for increased productivity in the  apparently lazy man is that the lumberjack who stopped for ten minutes wasn't really resting, he was sharpening his axe (or chainsaw or saw...), allowing him to work with much better efficiency.

The story a great metaphor to explain a new study about the power of naps to help retain knowledge and make studying more efficient. From the article:

If you see a student dozing in the library or a co-worker catching 40 winks in her cubicle, don't roll your eyes. New research from the University of California, Berkeley, shows that an hour's nap can dramatically boost and restore your brain power. Indeed, the findings suggest that a biphasic sleep schedule not only refreshes the mind, but can make you smarter.

In the recent UC Berkeley sleep study, 39 healthy young adults were divided into two groups - nap and no-nap. At noon, all the participants were subjected to a rigorous learning task intended to tax the , a region of the brain that helps store fact-based memories. Both groups performed at comparable levels.
At 2 p.m., the nap group took a 90-minute siesta while the no-nap group stayed awake. Later that day, at 6 p.m., participants performed a new round of learning exercises. Those who remained awake throughout the day became worse at learning. In contrast, those who napped did markedly better and actually improved in their capacity to learn.
These findings reinforce the researchers' hypothesis that sleep is needed to clear the brain's short-term  storage and make room for new information,...

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