To study or not to study in your bedroom

To study or not to study in your bedroom

While your bed might make a comfortable study spot, preparing for exams in the same room that you later need to relax and sleep in can decrease how well you can do both. Psychology student Caspian Leah explains how studying outside of your bedroom can improve both your study and your rest.

Image credit: Kiyun Lee

Often times when we enter certain spaces, we are reminded to perform certain behaviours. When we sit in a car, we put on a seatbelt. When we enter a library, we lower our voice. When we pass our neighbour, we say good morning.

Obviously we actively choose to engage in many of these behaviours (or at least, it can seem that way at first). However, with enough time and repetition, these behaviours can begin to feel automatic and routinised, as the behaviours will be strongly tied in our minds to a given place, person, or thing. All of a sudden, behaviours that previously required mental effort will begin to feel easier, as context has begun to serve as a cue for those very same behaviours and we are ‘nudged’ into performing them.

This same principle can apply to studying. I’m sure many of you will be familiar with the following situation:

You are sitting in your room. You have an assignment to work on, but you feel as though you must force yourself to begin working on it. To study requires mental effort. Consider that your room, in this situation, is not clearly associated with any one given pattern of behaviour. You may use your room for many different things, such as sleeping, eating snacks, watching Netflix, shaking your fist angrily out the window at noisy lawnmower man, or scrolling Facebook. Because your room is associated with many different behaviours, the context of your room may serve as a poor reminder to start studying. There’s just too much going on.

One very obvious solution to this problem (which you may have guessed by now) is to study outside of your room. For instance, you could study instead at the library, or a quiet space somewhere in town. There are two major benefits of doing this:

One, by using one context for studying and nothing else, that context will become strongly associated in your mind with the behaviour of ‘studying’. With enough time and repetition, studying in this context will feel very easy, whereas before, to study in your room may have required a great deal of self-control.

Two, by studying in a place that is not your room, all of the stressful thoughts and emotions that become associated with study are less likely to become associated with your room by extension. Spending time in your room will be less stressful. This is good for a number of reasons, though the main one, in my view, is that you will find it easier to sleep. Trying to rest your mind in the same environment where you have been stressing it for the last several hours is a bad idea.

Alternatively, study in your room and sleep at the library.

Caspian Leah is a fifth-year science student and has just completed a Bachelor of Science with Honours, majoring in Psychology. Caspian is also a Residential Adviser at hall of residence Te Puni Village.

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