Learning before bed boosts recall

March 27, 2012, 04:02 AM posted in General Discussion

I read an article on lifehacker today that I thought would be interesting to those, like me, learning Chinese.

Here's an excerpt:

"The study in question asked participants to memorize related word pairs (e.g., circus – clown) and unrelated word pairs (e.g., cactus – brick). Some participants learned the words at 9am, some at 9pm. The 9pm crowd went to sleep shortly after learning the words. The 9am crowd did not.

The results: Sleep made no difference when participants were asked to recall the related words, but when participants were asked to recall unrelated word pairs, the 9pm group—the group that slept right after learning—did significantly better."

It seems like the unrelated word pairs is very much in line with matching an English word and a Chinese word. So maybe study before bed would help boost retention? Here's a link to the entire article, although there's not much more in it than what was posted above:



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March 27, 2012, 04:21 AM

Thanks for posting this. The item that both is interesting and concerning is the idea that the non-related words were better retained. Partly to your point, I would then think you cannot use "table - 桌子 zhuōzi",as a learning pair because they are related. But ultimately, I suppose this is a separate question on which more research is needed.

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March 27, 2012, 03:02 PM

What if you enjoy throwing down a scotch after that studying right before bed (like I'm doing now)... how's that help for retention?

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That wasn't studied. Further research is needed. Note the type and amount of scotch, material studied and for how long duration studied. Note body mass index, Time of day studied, time of day drank scotch, approximate time went to bed. next morning, perform recall test. Collect data for about 2 weeks, then get back to us with results.

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March 27, 2012, 09:24 PM

I've always had good luck with studying before sleeping. In college I would always review a subject then I would think about what I had just studied as I went to sleep.  I always would have retained it in the morning.  Even now, I still will review my Chinese vocab before bed, then think about each word as I fall asleep.  Works well for me!