NEWS Mental Health News Taking Breaks Is Key to Learning, Research Shows By Krystal Jagoo Krystal Jagoo Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice, who has worked for three academic institutions across Canada. Her essay, “Inclusive Reproductive Justice,” was in the Reproductive Justice Briefing Book. Learn about our editorial process Updated on July 19, 2021 Fact checked Verywell Mind content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication. Learn more. by Nicholas Blackmer Fact checked by Nicholas Blackmer LinkedIn Nick Blackmer is a librarian, fact-checker, and researcher with more than 20 years’ experience in consumer-oriented health and wellness content. He keeps a DSM-5 on hand just in case. Learn about our editorial process Share Tweet Email Print MoMo Productions / Getty. Key Takeaways Learning is promoted by periods of rest in between practice times so that a skill can be consolidated while awake.During breaks, recorded magnetoencephalography (MEG) demonstrates that there is a compressed neural replay at a rate of approximately 20-times the acquired skill for consolidation.Taking breaks should be valued throughout the day when learning a new task. Individuals are often encouraged to take breaks when learning. And a recently published study in Cell Reports demonstrates why, as the brain needs that time to consolidate the skill in between its practice. Especially in light of the last year, when many have had to navigate increased work-life balance issues with the pandemic, this research reinforces the need for breaks to be better incorporated into all spaces. Whether learning is being pursued by children at school or adults in the workplace, this research bodes well for the importance of breaks to be prioritized as part of the process given its impact on skill consolidation. How to Take a Break From Work (and Why You Need It) Understanding the Research This study was conducted with 33 right-handed participants who were not active musicians following a neurological screening to understand how the brain uses wakeful rest to consolidate memory when learning a skill. Earlier research had demonstrated "the spacing effect" whereby skill memorization is enhanced when interspersed with rest periods in between practices, rather than in rapid succession, as waking replay reinforces hippocampal and neocortical associations that were previously practiced. A limitation of this study is the difficulty of differentiating between the identification of biological phenomena and mislabeling artifacts, which is the reality of any analysis that is based on classification. Memory Needs Breaks for Consolidation Neurologist, neuroscientist, and director of neuro-oncology at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, Santosh Kesari, MD, PhD, says, ”During the rest period after learning, there is a ‘virtual’ replay in memory circuits in the brain that allows for memory to consolidate.” For skill consolidation of a practiced behavior, Kesari says, "The presence of this waking rest in between practice allows hippocampal and neocortical replay and supports wakeful memory consolidation. We also need to translate this important mechanism into therapies for patients." Santosh Kesari, MD, PhD While practice does make perfect, this may actually occur in between the practice sessions, the waking rests, and future research on optimizing strategic rest periods may improve memory and learning. — Santosh Kesari, MD, PhD In terms of general memory consolidation, "We know that a good night's sleep helps, but this study shows that taking breaks after repetitive memorizing of tasks may help improve memory and successful learning during the day," Kesari says, "While practice does make perfect, this may actually occur in between the practice sessions, the waking rests, and future research on optimizing strategic rest periods may improve memory and learning. This study highlights this and will open new and important pathways to optimize learning techniques in the future." Proven Psychological Strategies for Learning Something New An Overworked Society Fails to Value Breaks Educational psychologist and founder of The Global Institute of Children's Mental Health, Roseann Capanna-Hodge, EdD, LPC, BCN, says, "For the average person, this research is important because there is such an increase in clinical mental health issues, ADHD and learning challenges, so one can look at the cognitive and memory processing research for ways to boost their own learning." "Trying intense periods of learning with true brain breaks where one isn’t online or doing anything else would be a great place to start." Roseann Capanna-Hodge, EdD, LPC, BCN In our overworked society, we don’t value true downtime and this research highlights that being intentionally off-line boosts our brain’s learning. — Roseann Capanna-Hodge, EdD, LPC, BCN When asked one thing she wished the public would know that does not get enough attention, Capanna-Hodge says, "In our overworked society, we don’t value true downtime and this research highlights that being intentionally off-line boosts our brain’s learning. We need to calm our brain and body in order to optimize learning, as our brain needs time to consolidate and integrate information into one's schemata or framework." Capanna-Hodge says, "Having worked with thousands over thirty years who struggle with anxiety, OCD, ADHD, and mood issues, it is clear that when one doesn’t take time to regulate their nervous system, mental and physical health issues will interfere with learning and memory. Taking intentional brain breaks and using tools such as breathing exercises can go a long way in improving attention, cognitive and memory functioning." What This Means For You As this study demonstrates, taking breaks in between practice is a crucial part of the very process of learning, even aside from the general need for balance between such work and other areas of life. Especially given how much individuals of all ages have had to juggle alongside the uncertainty of the pandemic, this study provides a good reason to incorporate more breaks into school and work settings for learning. A Study Guide for Your Psychology of Learning Exam 1 Source Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Buch ER, Claudino L, Quentin R, Bönstrup M, Cohen LG. Consolidation of human skill linked to waking hippocampo-neocortical replay. Cell Rep. 2021;35(10):109193. doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109193 By Krystal Jagoo Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.