Our brains emit electrical activity when neurons oscillate; this activity is called brain waves and different and specific frequencies predominate at particular times.
When you’re actively processing information Beta waves (around 12-40Hz) dominate but that level of activity can’t be sustained all the time and effectively you run out of energy – you reach cognitive overload.
Even at work our brains need a rest from constant conscious activity so stimulate slower alpha waves (8-12HZ) to take over for a while by doing deeply reflective activities such as relaxed, reflective guided visualisations. There is ample evidence that a short nap of around 15 minutes boosts our skills to process information later. When you’ve eaten energy is directed towards your digestion so in the so called graveyard shift after lunch so why not go with the natural biorythms of our bodies rather than fight against them.
Deep sleep and dream sleep are both necessary for memory formation and dreaming seems to be an opportunity for us to rehearse what we’ve learned, particularly for skills based learning. Whilst we are dreaming slower theta waves (4-8HZ) dominate and then in deep sleep the slowest brain waves, delta waves (0-4HZ) predominate. This may be a reason to consider bite size learning in chunks so people can sleep in between bouts of learning, thus potentially embedding it better.
The fastest brain waves, gamma waves (40-100HZ) are detected when you literally have a brain wave; those light bulb or aha moments. They’ve also been detected during deep meditation so perhaps it really is a good idea to attend those meditation classes after all – you might find yourself having more ‘brain waves’
Original Research: Abstract for “Frequency-specific hippocampal-prefrontal interactions during associative learning” by Scott L Brincat and Earl K Miller in Nature Neuroscience. Published online February 23 2015 doi:10.1038/nn.3954
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