In the first episode of the study at home guide, we dove into several practical tips and tricks that enable you to make your study at home time more productive and fun. Since most corona measures end soon, we will dive more into the general theme of ´studying during the summer´. This episode will dive into the effects of social life and alcohol consumption, the importance of stress management, the effects of a lack of sleep on your study sessions, and heat management.  

Active social life &alcohol

During summer the incentive for study evasiveness is more existing than during other seasons due to the more active and visible social life of the social environment of the student. Firstly, this is caused by more people with spare time in summer. Secondly, people tend to meet up more outside. Thus, the social interaction of people is more in your face when the weather is nice. Thirdly, people tend to spend their time more together in summer. With the corona measures ending soon this phenomenon might be seen more. These increasing and more visible social events enhance the ‘fear of missing out’ virus, a mental boundary students. have to overcome.

Enjoying the weather is an important energy re-charger. Therefore, it is important to enjoy the summer and your friends even during busy times. When you have to cancel too many events it might limit your productivity in the long run because it might result in a negative mindset (lonely student mindset). Students can overcome this by (1) working offline, (2) use timers and, (3) make a planning.

Studying offline boosts your productivity and concentration at first. Furthermore, it helps to overcome the mindset issues due to the confrontation with pictures of social events specifically during the summer. While studying offline you can use a timer in which it is not allowed to go online as long as the timer does not go off. The problem with time-based study strategies is that you might not finish your work before the timer went off. Therefore, creating task-based planning helps students keeping track of their progress. The problem with a fully task-based strategy is that you might want to join friends after the timer goes off while you are not finished with the task. Visiting those social events is essential for your productivity, concentration, and to overcome the ‘circle of doom’, in which we will come back later. A structured long-term planning enables students to limit both negative aspects and still visit many social events. Make use of the weather forecasts by planning more work during rainy days and more spare time during warm weeks. Then you make use of the days in which the incentives of social events are limited. A long term planning helps you with creating this overview.

After attending social events while drinking alcohol, it is not advised to start studying in the evening again. During summer, day drinking influences your study productivity more because of the heavier effects of alcohol during warm days. While drinking alcohol your brain is losing some of its capacity and also the productivity and concentration is limited. Luckily, your brain is able to recover fully after a good night of sleep. Therefore, it is advised to finish your study session before drinking and when you did you can better start studying again the day after for optimal concentration and productivity and with a fully recovered brain. Also, keep in mind that when you do not drink alcohol at those social events, your body still requires more energy when you are in warm and sunny places.

The effects of a lack of sleep

Another phenomenon that enlarges study problems, is a bad night’s sleep. The connection between sleep and studying is more direct than many might think. Professor Verbraecken, professor in the effects of sleep on the brain, states that during sleep your brain is processing your study day. The brain requires sleep in order to ´save the data´. Furthermore, the deep sleep stages are very important for your daily functioning. The brain uses these stages to recover from the day. People with sleep issues have foremost problems with the deep sleep stages. Weed and heavy alcohol consumption also limit the ability for high-quality deep sleep stages. This is one of the reasons why weed or many beers harm your ability to be productive the day after.

But why is a lack of sleep a topic especially important in a summer edition of the study at home guide? Well, it is because during summer we tend to have more problems with our night rest. First, this is caused because our brain receives an incentive of a ´sleep hormone´ when it is dark outside. We become more sleepy when the sun is down which happens earlier in wintertime. In addition, warm weather also limits the quality of sleep. Study shows that the human body is better able to cool down and fell asleep with lower temperatures in the bedroom and body.

Professor Verbraecken shared common tips for a better night. These tips are (1) regularity in the bedtime, (2) go outside a lot when it is light, (3) do sports, (4) limit caffeine and alcohol especially during the evening, and (5) a warm, not too long shower. Especially, the regularity tip is something that is very important because of the incentives to go to bed later during the summer. It is important to be aware of your bedtimes during the year in order to overcome later bedtimes during summer.

The circle of doom

Another essential aspect of high-quality and productive study sessions is stress management. In here, there is a circle of causes and consequences that limit your study quality I call ‘the circle of doom’. The circle starts with high levels of stress that negatively influence the night’s rest. A lack of good night’s rest will limit productivity and concentration. Limited productivity and concentration will result in not getting your work done or tasks that require more time than needed. This will increase the levels of stress. High levels of stress limit your night’s rest because stress fastens the production of cortisol. This is a hormone that enables your body to wake up in the morning. Therefore, stress is a reason why students sleep shorter. In contrast, long-term stress will downgrade the production of cortisol which causes sleep problems because the body reaches the level of cortisol required for a wake-up incentive too late.

Students should be aware of this causal circle that they will face more during summer. As stated, during summer the average person has more problems with their sleep. In addition, limiting your appearance at social events will also increase stress and limit your brain recovery. Students in this circle will recognize situations like having limited study progress on the moments they skipped a social event with friends. In those situations, the student does not give their mental situation the chance to recover from the stressful study. This increases stress levels, limits night’s rest, and thus limits productivity and concentration. Therefore, the tip for students is to be aware of this circle and take time for good stress management by attending social events and give yourself enough sleep.

Heat management

Lastly, when you managed your sleep and stress level as well as possible, it is also important to have a good study place. Scientists showed that there is a optimal temperature and humidity for working areas. A too warm working area limits the ability to study. Most universities are aware of these studies and they try to create the ideal situation. Therefore, it is important to have some heat management in your own place too. If that’s not possible and you are not able to go to school, a bowl of water for your feet helps. Another piece of advice is to dive into a pool as a small break when you are the lucky student with a garden. It is relaxing and it helps you to cool down after or in between study sessions.

Furthermore, students can also leave buildings and go outside in order to find the ideal study place. Several students prefer studying outside over their room or inside the university. Every student has to find its own ideal study place. Students might study in their garden or study at a park or at the beach. As a final tip, some students like it to study on the train. Trains have a cooled working area, which are due to COVID-19 relatively quiet, and you can always watch outside for some inspiration when the concentration is gone.

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