Teaching Tips: The Case Against All-Night Cramming

Teaching Tips: The Case Against All-Night Cramming

Dick Moss, Editor, PE Update.com

I'm sure you've heard this comment at one time or another: “Sorry I'm dragging in practice today, Coach. I was up all night cramming for an exam.”

You might be tempted to counsel your young athlete that cramming doesn't work, but...well, you used to cram for the occasional exam yourself. And it seemed to work for you, didn't it? Or did it?

In fact, new research has shown that cramming sessions aren't effective. In fact, students who don't get a good night's sleep may forget much of what they studied that night.

Cramming Research
The research was performed by Professor Carlyle Smith at Trent University in Ontario. He showed that students who miss their REM (rapid eye-movement) phase of sleep forget from 20-50% more of what they've studied from the night before, compared to students who've received a full eight hours of shut-eye.

It's Dr. Smith's belief that REM sleep is critical for understanding new information and concepts. The brain uses REM sleep to catalogue and process new information. This processing can actually go on for weeks, most of it during sleep.

So you can tell your procrastinating athletes that their cramming sessions are simply not effective. They'll remember much more—and understand what they remember—if they get a good night's sleep. And of course, they'll be better at practice too.
1. Selina Bell (Reporter), The Health Show, CBC Television (Canadian Broadcasting Company), March 7  1999. Original broadcast: November 10, 1998.
2. Kevin Paul, Study Smarter, Not Harder, Self Counsel Press, 2009.

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