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I am a graduate student in CS, and naturally, I take several breaks a day from studying, but I feel that most of those breaks are habit-influenced and that I do not absolutely need to get off my seat and meditate, exercise, etc. For instance, I love reading/learning philosophy, but because I am aware that such a practice requires non-trivial brain effort, I only do that on vacations and I find myself disinclined to attempt such a thing on those breaks. However, I think that this disinclination stems from my awareness of the non-triviality of the undertaking and essentially my laziness or mental fatigue, not from natural brain-related issues.

Is there documented evidence that the brain needs regular periods of rest in certain individual-dependent amounts, apart and in addition to the normal ~8 hours of sleep?

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The brain needs rest as much as it needs stimulation and exercise. The line has to be drawn, however, where one feels as if too much rest is given. If the brain continuously is computing, organizing or analyzing complex problems 24/7, may start to degenerate. There is only so much our brain can do without rest. According to the book Brain Facts: A Primer on the Brain and Nervous System, lack of sleep stretches far beyond increased vulnerability to diseases and health complications. It encompasses, but isn't limited to:

  • slowed neuroplasticity
  • general cognitive impairment implicated in the frontal lobe
  • decreased long-term potentation which is important for higher cognitive function.
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  • $\begingroup$ The question is specifically on taking breaks in-between mental activity, and explicitly not about sleep. That is the reason why the question has been unanswered for so long. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Jun 13 '17 at 8:36
  • $\begingroup$ @YvetteColomb - it's a nice enough answer, but not to the question unfortunately. The question title needs editing I think. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Jun 13 '17 at 8:36
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    $\begingroup$ @AliceD ah that's my bad. I was browsing this new user's posts and didn't read the whole question. $\endgroup$ – Yvette Colomb Jun 13 '17 at 10:16
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Margarita Tartakovski on PsychCentral says,

Information is merely a click — or, more accurately, a Google search — away. Depending on your query, there’s likely at least a dozen, if not hundreds, of blogs on the topic, a similar number of books and many more articles.

This is a good thing, but it also can overburden our brains.

According to Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D, a psychologist and author of Find Your Focus Zone: An Effective New Plan to Defeat Distraction and Overload, “Information overload occurs when a person is exposed to more information than the brain can process at one time.”

Alvin Toffler actually coined the term in 1970 in his book Future Shock. As more and more people started using the Web, “information overload” became a popular phrase to describe how we felt about going online, Palladino said.

According to neuroscientists, the more accurate term is “cognitive overload,” she said. That’s “because the brain can process vast amounts of information depending on the form in which it’s presented,”

According to Professor Torkel Klingberg, MD, PhD (2009), the brain can suffer from information overload, and he gives some examples of what he is talking about.

Our brains have limited capacity for processing information. This book is an attempt to understand why this is so, what effect it has on our everyday lives, and how we can stretch these limits with mental exercise......In his article "Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform," psychiatrist Edward Hallowell coins the term "attention deficit trait" to characterize the situation.

From these articles, and articles linked within these articles, I would say that there are times that the brain needs rest at times in-between mental activities, in order to process things learnt, but the periods of rest needed can vary depending on how the activity taxes the brain, and how much it is used to dealing with the information.

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