Study tips: Learn like Einstein

Albert Einstein

If you have a little more time than usual, like around the holidays, why not use it effectively and study English? To answer that question, however, we need to ask: what is effective learning? 

While each person is different, we can still look at ideal examples for inspiration. Let's take a look at one of history's most renowned geniuses, Albert Einstein. He had a few interesting approaches to thinking that have been scientifically proven to be effective. 

Sleep is golden

Most of us know that sleeping well is good for your brain and good for your health, but Einstein took this advice even more seriously than most of us. He reportedly slept for 10 hours per day. 

For us, 10 hours might not be achievable, but we can still make the most of our sleep by studying before bed. Studies have shown that REM sleep, which occurs in 90-minute to 120-minute cycles when sleeping, is when our bodies encode or "save" our memories. The more we are thinking about our target learning before sleeping—and the more sleeping we do—the more effective our brains are at remembering. 

To drive this point home, a notable study at the University of Lubeck, Germany, was conducted. Volunteers were trained to play a number game. While most gradually got the hang of it, there was also a hidden rule to win much more quickly. Students were tested again eight hours later. Students who had been allowed to sleep were more than twice as likely to figure out the rules than those who didn't sleep. Clearly, sleep helps with processing information. 

Take a walk

Einstein walked outside nearly every single day. While working at Princeton University, he commuted on foot—nearly two and a half kilometres.

These walks not only helped with fitness, but studies also clearly show that walking helps with memory. These studies suggest that taking energy from one part of our brain allows it to put that energy to other uses.

Most of our day is spent thinking in the frontal areas of the brain with logic, decision-making, and other executive functions. But if we can log off the internet, get away from family, and take a walk outside, then our brain's frontal areas can take a break. That energy can be put towards encoding memories. 

Eat for energy 

Einstein's favourite food was spaghetti. That high-carbohydrate diet is not often seen as healthy, but studies have shown that our brain needs energy that comes from our food—specifically carbs and sweets. In fact, the brain consumes about 20% of the body's energy, while accounting for less than 2% of total weight. 

So, don't study on an empty stomach. This is especially good news around the holidays! Just make sure you take enough walks to balance out the excess calories. 

When you have time, make sure you spend it well. To get the most out of your studies: eat well, take a walk, and then take a nap. In other words, learn like Einstein.

*This post was inspired by a very good BBC article.

renowned [adjective] /re-NOUND/—famous, well-known.
REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep—characterized by fast eye movements, and dreaming.
frontal [adjective] /FRUHN-təl/—in the front part of something.