Implementing wakeful resting

I am wondering who here has tried wakeful resting and how you do it. Specifically, what are the intervals, rest 10 work 10?

I’ve read lots of papers about it but haven’t seen to many discussion about how long rest vs work should be.

I’m thinking perhaps it depends on many factors such as your energy at that moment. As a general rule there should be uppper boundary on max work time as well as a lower bound on rest time.


Can you explain this idea more? I have never heard of this before!

As I understand it, wakeful resting (WR) simply means closing your eyes and doing nothing for some amount of time. Research indicates that WR after a period of study will increase the likelihood that you remember the concepts studied. The article that everyone always links is Wakeful resting and memory retention: a study with healthy older and younger adults. but there are other studies as well.

Please see further discussion and background on WR.

The biggest variation I have seen between these articles is the amount of WR time and study time.

So the question is, which WR time and study time lead to the highest retention of information on average. Here I will simply define retention to be the percentage of correct responses to questions about the material being studied. (I am ignoring for now another variable; the time delay since first studying and the review that would take place. It’s actually really important and I want to know what is the best delay also, but lets keep it simple)

Let’s consider some same data that I just made up. The problem comes down to trying to maximize the final row of the table. That is, we want to study as long as possible with as little wakeful rest as possible while maximizing the retention rate.

In this dumb example, a WR of 5 minutes and study of 15 minutes leads to the best happiness. This is just a heuristic and maybe someone else has a better one.

study (min) 20 10 15
rest (min) 5 5 5
retention 0.2 0.5 0.6
(study / rest ) * ret 0.8 1 1.8

I am considering conducting a study on myself to try to try and find some answers to this question. It would be a lot of effort but if I ever do it I will post my results.

The research looks very promising but to actually implement this type of routine and see benefits I think it is necessary to consider the questions I have posed.

I imagine this number varies a bit from person to person. At this point I am just wondering what has worked for other people. At this point I am doing 10 WR, 5 S for learning Chinese characters.


Interesting. I have read a book from a sleep expert that talked about the role of sleep and memory. Taking a nap after learning something does help you retain more of the info. Also, getting a full night’s rest helps with info retention.

You say you do nothing when doing WR. To me, it seems better to study all the stuff you want and take a nap after then make sure you get 7-8 hours of sleep that night. I can see the issue you have with trying to find the optimal area of WR and studying.

The study didn’t say if the retention was long term or just a short term boost which is kind of important since people can remember a phone number just by repeating until they right it down. In that example, it doesn’t prove pure repetition is great for long term, you know?

Let me know what happens with your experiments. I like to optimize the big things first like nutrition, sleep, and exercise then fine tune things.

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Thanks for pointing this out. I doubt that this method by itself or probably any method for that matter, will lead to long term retention after only 1 review.

For now, spaced repitition seems to be one of the most effective ways to guarantee knowledge gets into long term memory.

That said, I do think WR may have the potential for speeding the process of knowledge making its way to long term memory.

To be sure, napping and sleep offer more memory benefit than WR. That said, we know breaks are important between studying. I look at WR as a potentially more efficient version of taking a break.

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I teach and sometimes I get a difficult problem with one of the kids. If I try to solve it head-on I can’t do it. But if I relax that’s when the answer comes to me. There’s a name given to this but I can’t remember what it’s called. Anyway, it seems related.

Sounds like “focused and diffused” mood…

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I think your right that spaced repetition is the only way to make sure you get something into long term. I wonder what else there could be??

Ah that is a good way to incorporate WR into the learning process. Making the break you take the best it can possibly be!!

you should read this article:

" Della Sala and Cowan’s former student, Michaela Dewar at Heriot-Watt University, has now led several follow-up studies, replicating the finding in many different contexts. In healthy participants, they have found that these short periods of rest can also improve our spatial memories, for instance – helping participants to recall the location of different landmarks in a virtual reality environment"

So… this intervals of 10-15 min of doing nothing (maybe including some meditation) enhance your spacial and visual memory, just exactly what we need to study with journeys or Mind palaces

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