Bright Future For C++ Learners

For some programmers, investing the time and effort necessary to master C++ may not be the easiest sell.

Even the most ardent supporters of C++ will acknowledge that when compared to other popular programming languages such as Java, C++ has a steeper learning curve and is less forgiving of common errors when programming. “Most people take a full year working on C++ before they become aware of all the nuances,” says security and programming expert Peter Thorsteinson. “It’s a tricky business.”

In a  recent webinar, “Why Programmers are Embracing C++ More than Ever,” Thorsteinson said one of the reasons why C++ is more difficult to learn is because it is more strict and rules-based than other programming languages.

Thor

Peter Thorsteinson

So, why bother? One of the reasons that C++ requires this greater degree of exactness is that code developed in C++ has direct access to the computer’s CPU and memory, whereas code from languages such as Java are separated from the hardware layer by an intermediate language or compiler. This ability to run directly on a system’s “bare metal” grants programs written in C++ gains in both speed and efficiency, Thorsteinson said. “You are running code right on the metal and that’s what gives C++ its performance and direct access to memory,” he said.

These gains is performance will be more necessary as processing-intensive technologies such as neural networks, big data and virtual reality become more popular, Thorsteinson said. “Anywhere speed and low latency is desired, C++ rules.”

Similarly, the efficiency gains enabled by C++ make it a natural fit for burgeoning areas such as mobile computing and the Internet of Things. More efficient code means less wasted clock cycles and longer battery life, he said. “C++ is very for good for applications that run on constrained hardware. It’s much more efficient and therefore uses less battery.”

In addition to the performance and efficiency gains, programmers have another reason to embrace C++ — it’s popular and in-demand. Although C++ has been around for decades, it is still one of the most widely used programming languages today. Thorsteinson noted that C++ sits near the top of the Tiobe Index as one of the top three languages based on usage.

Thus, knowing C++ gives programmers more options when it comes times to tackle a project. “It’s a matter of picking right tool,” he said. “C++ is not the right choice for every job, but it is certainly the right choice for many jobs.”

In addition to helping diversify their skill sets, programmers learning C++ will also boost their earning potential. “Another important thing to consider is the salary,” Thorsteinson said. “C++ programmers are generally paid more than other programmers because it’s a difficult language.”

 

About the Author

Kenealy resizedBill Kenealy is a copywriter and blogger specializing in enterprise technologies. A graduate of the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism, Bill has 15 years of experience reporting on business and IT. Bill recently relocated to the Twin Cities and enjoys travel and exploring his new home state with his wife. He enjoys reading, PC gaming and watching football by himself.

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PowerShell Fluency Worth the Learning Curve

Sometimes to get where you are going you have to avoid the easy road.

Such is the case for those questioning whether they need training for Microsoft’s latest version of its configuration management framework PowerShell, says David Cobb. A noted development expert, systems architect and technology consultant, Cobb says the expanding capabilities of PowerShell coupled with its increasingly centralized position in the Microsoft technology stack make learning it a must for developers.

“Whether you are working with SQL, SharePoint or Exchange, anything and everything we do as IT professionals within the Microsoft world is going to involve PowerShell,” Cobb says.

blogscreenshot

PowerShell 5.0

In a recent Webinar, Cobb delves deep into the new wrinkles present in PowerShell 5.0, which was released in February. Still featuring a split-screen command-line shell and scripting environment, PowerShell 5.0 has made it easier for developers to import and share code from existing, predefined module repositories as well as from code repositories available on their own machines. Cobb says tighter integration with open-source package manager NuGet is a particularly welcome advance in the new version. “If you need to add more modules, a really great feature in PS5 is the integration with NuGet,” he says, noting that applications that are easily configured and managed using PowerShell are also amenable to automation, making them a good fit for cloud deployment.

In addition to developers, IT and server administrators may also benefit from a deeper understanding of PowerShell as Microsoft continues to nudge users to install Windows Server without a graphical interface. It is this underlying versatility of PowerShell and its increasing ubiquity in a broad range of technology platforms that makes proper training essential, Cobb says, adding that a growing library of PowerShell tools and modules are now available on the web.

“You are going to find that if you invest the time in learning PowerShell, you are going to be able to take advantage of tools that are freely available to maximize your productivity,” he says. “You can script and automate tasks that are tedious, repetitive or error prone.”

 

About the Author

Kenealy resizedBill Kenealy is a copywriter and blogger specializing in enterprise technologies. A graduate of the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism, Bill has 15 years of experience reporting on business and IT. Bill recently relocated to the Twin Cities and enjoys travel and exploring his new home state with his wife. He enjoys reading, PC gaming and watching football by himself.

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Agile Development Training Unlocks Many Doors

Since its arrival on the scene more than a decade ago, agile development has revolutionized the way software is created. Now many feel the methodology is primed to unlock efficiencies in business processes elsewhere in the enterprise.

Conceived to address the shortcoming of the dominant software development methodology of the day, the waterfall methodology, agile development quickly gained a foothold in IT departments as they scrambled to keep up with a rapidly expanding need for fast deliverables. Whereas waterfall development necessitates that teams works diligently to construct initial requirements before launching into the long, strictly-defined stages of a project, the incremental nature of agile development makes it inherently more flexible. Indeed, the daily communication between stakeholders required by agile development enables developers to course correct as needed and molds the final product to the shifting needs of the business.

Agile development expert Kevin McManus says that while agile development first flourished in software, it is useful as a broader project management philosophy. “Agile is really a way to take very complex project environments and break them down into elemental components in order to simplify management,” he says.

Kevin McManus

To be sure, while some of team-building aspects of agile development will be familiar to those accustomed to waterfall development, much of the terminology and concepts won’t. For example, sprints are defined amounts of time, usually from a week to month, in which teams have to complete a defined piece of work. One popular agile framework, known as Scrum, is named after the rugby formation and is exemplified by the cross-functional team meetings held every day to assess progress. “Agile is not a technical topic, it’s an exercise in group psychology,” McManus says.

The benefits to this regimented, collaborative framework are many, McManus says, noting that having a diverse team of people reviewing progress consistently helps you identify potential blind spots and eliminate communications silos that persist in organizations. “Agile improves communication by increasing the feedback loops,” he says. “When people are working together they have a sounding board to bounce ideas off, so that you are not solving problems in a vacuum.”

Much as scrums help keep software developers on task, McManus says that you are now seeing the agile framework being applied in a variety of places where companies wish to improve the quality and timeliness of their deliverables. For example, large logistics companies use scrums to help them gain the operational flexibility needed to deal with random events such as snowstorms.

What’s more, the training necessary to understand agile development concepts and principles can prove helpful outside the enterprise in undertakings that are complex and have a high degree of variability.  McManus says he used scrum-inspired meetings to help ensure that his four children kept up with their housekeeping chores as they looked to sell their home.  “Once you see how it is applicable in software, you will also see how applicable it is to everyday life,” he says.

McManus is currently producing several courses for LearnNowOnline, including a course which will help learners prepare for the SCRUM Master certification.  Those looking for a logical starting point to learn more about Scrum can check out his free, upcoming webinar on April 20.

About the Author

Kenealy resizedBill Kenealy is a copywriter and blogger specializing in enterprise technologies. A graduate of the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism, Bill has 15 years of experience reporting on business and IT. Bill recently relocated to the Twin Cities and enjoys travel and exploring his new home state with his wife. He enjoys reading, PC gaming and watching football by himself.

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Beating Back Web-based Attacks

While the specifics of how most cyber attacks on companies are committed may not interest some, security professionals do not have that luxury.

What’s striking is that in addition to maintaining a broad view of the myriad ways in which an enterprise can be compromised, IT professionals also need an in-depth knowledge of each attack vector. In his new Webinar, When Applications Attack!, security expert Ryan Hendricks surveys the top 10 vulnerabilities facing companies today according to the Open Web Application Security Project but also rolls up his sleeves and starts coding in order to show webinar participants in vivid details how the attacks are carried out.

Using OWASP’s free, web-based penetration testing application Mutillidae to illustrate his point, Hendricks shows just how easy it is for hackers to gain access to corporate data via what OWASP regards as the top threat today, SQL injection.

SQL injection involves attacking a database by directly communicating with the server. “Normally a web application passes information over to a SQL database,” Hendricks says. “However, if there is no filtering done, a hacker can communicate directly with the database on the back end and then insert, change or remove any of the data in that database.”

Using a test web site available on Mutillidae, Hendricks demonstrated how login screens are especially susceptible to SQL injection. His first step was to attempt to login with a fictitious name and password. The goal was to purposely cause the site to generate an error message from which he could decipher information about the security settings in place on the database server. From there, Hendricks copied and pasted the SQL command contained in the error message into text editor, altered the script relating to how the site handles usernames and passwords, and reinserted the altered text via the login screen. He was immediately granted access to the test site as an administrator. “Using SQL injection you can bypass authentication completely on the login screen,” he says.

The comment sections on blogs are another potential source of infection, Hendricks says. Using a common technique known as persistent cross-site scripting, an attacker can execute malicious scripts on legitimate websites by inserting them as comments. This type of attack is especially pernicious because it is executed by the user’s own browser.

Another technique known as cross-site request forgery exploits people’s tendency to trust requests generated by Web sites they are on as well as their tendency to have multiple browser tabs open at once. If a user is already logged into a legitimate server, somebody can send a malicious link from another tab hoping to trick you into submitting information to a compromised web application. “Because you already have that trust established between you and that server that’s what makes cross-site request forgery work,” Hendricks says. “If you are going to be banking or doing anything that is secure, it’s not a good idea to have 15 tabs open in your browser clicking on all types of links because that’s when you expose yourself to this.”

Much as he advises individual users to apply a healthy dose of caution in order to avoid Web-based attacks, Hendricks says there is some low-hanging fruit for IT security professionals as well. In addition to making sure that your users are only installing trusted software and add-ons to browsers, security professionals need to make sure that all the input to your company’s web site is filtered for malicious, executable code on both the client and server side. “Never trust input from the user,” he says.

 

About the Author

Kenealy resizedBill Kenealy is a copywriter and blogger specializing in enterprise technologies. A graduate of the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism, Bill has 15 years of experience reporting on business and IT. Bill recently relocated to the Twin Cities and enjoys travel and exploring his new home state with his wife. He enjoys reading, PC gaming and watching football by himself.

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Apple’s Spat With Feds Clarifies Importance of Understanding Encryption

Leaving aside the legal and philosophical aspects of the debate, Apple’s protracted, public fight with the FBI and the Justice Department over a court order to unlock an iPhone 5C belonging to a terrorist is notable for the amount of attention it has focused on the somewhat arcane issue of encryption.

Given this, one thing that has struck me is that while approaching ubiquity, encryption technologies are not well understood, even by those who are conversant in many other aspects of technology. Indeed, despite the widespread acknowledgment in companies regarding the need to safeguard data, encryption is regarded by many as a subject matter best left to a subset of math-crazed cryptographers, intelligence agencies, IT security professionals and cyber criminals.

Those seeking a broad overview of encryption technologies and how they work, should take note of upcoming LNO courses from cybersecurity expert Rafiq Wayani. As part of a larger course on IT security, Wayani, an experienced systems architect and software engineer, discusses the history and merits of five of the most common encryption protocols in use today.

Wayani notes that all encryption schemes are essentially reliant on algorithms to convert electronic data into a form that that is unreadable for users who lack the proper key or password. The similarities end there.

Numbers on computer screen. Macro photography with visible pixels and shallow depth of field.For example, one widely used encryption algorithm Triple DES (data encryption standard) uses key sizes of 56, 112, or 168 bits and is symmetric, which means that the same key can be used for both encrypting and decrypting data. Conversely, another widely used standard, RSA, is asymmetric and relies upon the difficulty of factoring the product of two large prime numbers in order to keep data secure.

AES (advanced encryption standard) was developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and uses keys of 128, 192 or 256 bits in length. 256-bit encryption is, for now, largely considered impervious to all attacks, Wayani says. Indeed, FBI officials say that they are unable to access the iPhone 5C used by Syed Farook, one of two terrorists who killed 14 people at a party in San Bernardino, California, due to Apple’s use of 256-bit AES encryption.
“Experts believe that AES will eventually be hailed as the de facto standard for encrypting data in the private sector,” Wayani notes in the course.

Irrespective of Apple’s legal fate in the case, it is clear that is the use of encryption, and the need for companies to educate their employees about it, will not abate. Just this week Google released data indicating that encryption now shields 77% of the global requests sent to its data centers, up from 52% at the end of 2013.

While the complex mathematical equations behind encryption methods are likely to remain inscrutable to most, there may be no better time to afford people in your organization the training they need to gain a deeper understanding of the practical applications of encryption.

 

About the Author

Kenealy resizedBill Kenealy is a copywriter and blogger specializing in enterprise technologies. A graduate of the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism, Bill has 15 years of experience reporting on business and IT. Bill recently relocated to the Twin Cities and enjoys travel and exploring his new home state with his wife. He enjoys reading, PC gaming and watching football by himself.

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Why Microsoft Word Training is a Wise Decision

Given the wide array of new and complex technologies in the modern workplace, dedicated training for Microsoft Word might seem at first blush somewhat superfluous. Word is, after all, among the most venerable and commonplace of software applications. What’s to learn?

Yet, those taking Word for granted are likely missing the marked evolution of program from a simple, electronic word processor to a comprehensive communications platform, notes Leeanne McManus, Chief Learning & Talent Officer, ikuw Solutions, Inc. Employees content to just scratch the surface and not delve into the advanced functionalities added to Word in recent versions may be unwittingly costing themselves time and effort by manually performing tasks that could easily be automated.

Leeanne resized

Leeanne McManus

“Some people will say ‘I’ve had this program for 15 years, why would I need more training?’” McManus says. “They don’t understand the lost productivity and missed chances for collaboration when you are manually doing things.”

According to McManus, the need for Word training is now especially pronounced as Microsoft has looked to reshape Word in recent releases in order to account for larger trends in technology such as cloud computing, appification and mobility. For example, recent versions of Word feature a flat design ascetic, a purposeful decision made to accommodate people using their fingers to navigate the program on devices such as phones and tablets. Nonetheless, this decision may have unintentionally led to confusion for longtime desktop users, she notes. “One of The biggest pain points for people accustomed to older versions of Word was getting used to the flatness,” she says. “If you came from anything before Word 2007, the new versions such Word 2013 of Word 2016 are going to seem completely foreign. Other than the basic functionality, you may as well have been using WordPerfect.”

In addition to just figuring out where they moved everything, Word training is also becoming essential as the program shifts to the cloud and becomes more tightly integrated with a variety of Microsoft collaboration and desktop products including Sharepoint, OneNote and Outlook. Given the overlapping functionality and the common design language of these programs, an employee efficient on Word will have a head start understanding these programs and how they interrelate. “Word has gone from being a program to being a platform,” she says.

Indeed, given the program’s ubiquity in the office place, training employees to get the most out of Word may prove an effective icebreaker for getting them to better leverage all the technologies your enterprise has to offer. “Some people are by nature afraid to explore,” McManus says. “They are terribly afraid they will break something or cause World War 3. It’s just software.”

 

About the Author

Kenealy resizedBill Kenealy is a copywriter and blogger specializing in enterprise technologies. A graduate of the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism, Bill has 15 years of experience reporting on business and IT. Bill recently relocated to the Twin Cities and enjoys travel and exploring his new home state with his wife. He enjoys reading, PC gaming and watching football by himself.

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Why Sleep When You Can Drink Coffee? (Part 3)

My two previous blogs discussed both coffee/caffeine and sleep, to an extent, and the way they operate individually.  Now let’s address an important question regarding their overlap with one another:

Can coffee be an effective replacement for sleep when it comes to brain functioning and mental capabilities, specifically with learning and memorizing?

Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding “not really”.

To see why this is true, let’s briefly look at the three main components of learning/memorizing:

  • Acquisition/encoding, which is the actual experiencing of something new
  • Consolidation/storage, where information is made smaller and committed to memory
  • Recall/retrieval, which is the ability to remember a memory later on

Acquisition and recall happen while you are awake: you consciously consume new information or try and remember old information. However, consolidation—which is essential to learning and remembering something long term because it is when our brain forms new neural connections to store information—happens mostly during sleep.

A recent study performed by researchers at Johns Hopkins and UC-Irvine found that caffeine can in fact help memory consolidation if it is consumed shortly after someone learns something new. This would suggest that it does impact step 2, even though the caffeine is consumed while you are awake and consolidation happens while you are asleep.

Without sleep, the impact of the caffeine on memory would be negligible because there
wouldn’t be time for the brain to actually perform the task of consolidation anyway.

One of the biggest reasons why we cannot learn well without enough sleep is because of the timing of when we memorize things during sleep and how long it takes for one cycle of sleep to complete.

Just like the repairing of our muscles, our brain restores itself most during deep sleep (stages 3 and 4 of NREM) and REM sleep.

It takes roughly 70-90 minutes for our body to enter into REM sleep, which is the most important stage for learning and memory. Once there, we only spend about 20 minutes in REM during our first sleep cycle. As we progress into further cycles, we begin to spend more and more time in REM sleep.

So, it is easy to see why we do not learn well when we aren’t sleeping well: our brains need a good amount of time in REM sleep, but we don’t get it unless we stay asleep for multiple cycles.

Adults need roughly 7.5-9 hours of sleep per night (yikes, I never get that much) to be fully functional (some need more and a few less), which is roughly 4-6 cycles of sleep. Thus, sleeping 4-6 hours a night means you could be missing multiple cycles of REM-rich sleep that you need for your brain to consolidate memories and remember processes.

And this is only talking about missing one night of good sleep. The reality is that many of us are consistently losing sleep on a night-to-night basis, resulting in sleep deprivation.

Unfortunately, something many people may not Sleep Versus Coffeeknow is that sleep deprivation is cumulative. This means that if you go 5 days in a row with those 4-6 hours of sleep, you could be 10-20 hours in debt, rather than just a couple hours from an individual night. Because the amount you need to sleep does not reset from night to night, over time this built up sleep debt will cause you to consistently perform worse in almost every area—cognitive, physical, reaction time, etc.

While coffee can help a little bit for a short time to combat this, it simply cannot overcome such a significant and powerful phenomenon. Plus, the extra jolt you get from coffee to help ward off sleep deprivation probably isn’t making you more focused than you would be if you had a proper amount of sleep. Rather, it is simply trying to get you close to the level of efficiency you would be operating at if you had the right amount of sleep in the first place. And, when the coffee wears off, you will feel extra tired because your brain is being overloaded with the sleep-inducing chemical adenosine that the caffeine is no longer blocking.

With this in mind, the conclusion is that there is simply no replacement for sleep. Almost all the research shows that sleep is potentially the most important thing you can do for your emotional, physical, and mental health, and for your ability to learn.

Coffee can help you to an extent when you aren’t able to rest up fully, but it can never truly serve as a replacement for a good night’s rest, especially when it comes to your ability to learn and remember things.

Ultimately, your ability to concentrate, perform, and learn is at its prime when you have the right number of hours of sleep, not the right number of cups of coffee.

Happy sleeping, enjoy your coffee, and happy learning,

Craig

About the Author

Craig-PhotoCraig Jensen is the President and CEO of LearnNowOnline. Craig has led the company’s change from instructor-led classroom training, to self-study CD/DVD training, to the award winning online learning solutions offered today. Craig is passionate about helping individuals and businesses of all sizes solve their problems through practical learning and technology. He is involved in setting direction for the company, including selecting training content for development with resources to support all learning styles. He is also involved in The CEO Roundtable organization in the Twin Cities as well as the Minnesota High Tech organization. In his spare time, Craig loves to travel, golf, and partake in water sports of all kinds.

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Hey, So What’s New With You?

It’s easy these days to get too busy with life in general, or waiting in line for the new Star Wars movie, and forget to connect with old friends and colleagues. In that spirit, and because I don’t have a tent that could hold up to 16 days of queuing in Minnesota, I wanted to tell you what’s been happening with us!

We’ve been busy writing new content, filming and releasing new courses, and preparing for our 6-month-long ice fishing season (dontcha know).

Fishing ShackFun fact; we actually have entire cities that pop up on the ice each year, and they are so established that stores follow suit and mail is delivered on a daily basis. Have you seen Grumpy Old Men? That’s it. There’s even a Grumpy Old Men festival each year, with ice fishing and ice shack contests. Why? We tend not to ask that question when trying to stay warm & entertained during the arctic freeze. Hey look, Paul Bunyan!

Speaking of freezing (prepare to have your mind blown by this segue), personal security on your computer has always been a top priority for users. No one wants to deal with a slow computer, infected with various viruses and malware, so we do everything we can to protect ourselves from that unfortunate situation; though, attackers have larger and more valuable game in mind these days. As more and more embarrassing headlines continue to pop up, everyone from small business owners to fortune 500 companies are looking for the perfect way to protect their user’s confidential information.

Allow me to introduce our brand new “Security” library! Queue the music!

LearnNowOnline has just released a Security library, full of the training you’ll need to effectively protect your company and applications from the tech world’s evildoers. Among other things, this library includes 3 robust OWASP training courses:

OWASP: Forgery and Phishing

OWASP: Threats and Session Security

OWASP: Misconfiguration and Data Encryption

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) is a global nonprofit organization devoted to improving security for web applications. The Top 10 Project, first created by OWASP in 2003,
is among its most popular and widely known tools. The Top 10 Project is a lineup of the 10 leading web application security risks affecting users and companies worldwide; illustrating each vulnerability, as well as recommending examples and approaches to avert them. LearnNowOnline’s OWASP courses will turn you into a Jedi master of security (too many Star Wars references?), covering the full Top 10 Project list.

Hot off the press, and also part of our new Security library, are 4 fantastic courses on Certified Ethical Hacking (CEH):

CEH: Intro to Ethical Hacking

CEH: Operating Systems and Hacking

CEH: Threats and System Hacking

CEH: Malware and Social Engineering

Looking for more?  Stay tuned as many more security courses are in the works and coming soon!

Well, that there’s about all the time I have for today. Time to sharpen up my crampons and ready the sled. See you on the lake? You betcha!

About the Author

Zach YoungZach Young manages the LearnNowOnline customer support department. In addition to making strange but surprisingly delicious smoothies, Zach divides his time between the LearnNowOnline recording studio, providing sales demos for new and existing clients, and ensuring that each customer is taken care of. In his spare time, Zach enjoys globetrotting with his wife, playing and recording music, and attempting to get the required 1.21 gigawatts for Doc Brown’s DeLorean.

 

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Why Sleep When You Can Drink Coffee? (Part 2)

Sleep is one of the biggest mysteries … why do we need it?

Although we still can’t really answer that question properly, scientists have made strides in understanding what it does, how it works, and what happens to our bodies and brains when we aren’t getting enough of it.

My last post discussed coffee/caffeine and how it affects our brain.  Following this blog post, I will look at how coffee and caffeine overlap with sleep, and whether caffeine can actually help to replace sleep.Getting Sleep

Before looking at that relationship, however, let’s look at how sleep works so that we know what we are dealing with.

Here’s some of what we know: (a snoozer for you if you don’t like facts)

Sleep is comprised of two different stages: NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement). A majority of our time sleeping is spent in NREM (roughly 75-80 percent) which has four stages of its own where we move progressively deeper into sleep. After these four stages, we move into REM (the other 20-25 %), where we get some of our deepest and most restorative sleep.

NREM begins with a very light stage 1 sleep where we drift in and out of being awake and asleep for about 10-20 minutes. After this, we enter stage 2, which is deeper and more stable. We spend about 50 percent of our total time asleep in this stage.

Once we move to stage 3 and 4, we enter SWS (slow-wave sleep), or “deep sleep.” Our blood pressure and body temperature drop, as does our breathing rate. Our muscle tissue and energy begin to be restored, partially because of the release of different hormones. During these stages we have little-to-no eye movement or muscle activity. Our brain also begins to consolidate memories, which is an essential function for not only remembering and recalling information later on, but also for making room for new memories to be stored.

After the 4 stages of NREM sleep, we finally enter into REM sleep. Here, true to its name, our eyes move rapidly as we dream vividly. Our breathing becomes quick and irregular and our muscles often become paralyzed, although our heart rate and blood pressure rise. REM sleep, along with stage 3 and 4 of NREM, is essential because of its physical, mental, and emotionally restorative powers.

Even though we don’t know why we need sleep, it is clear that it is incredibly important. Sleep’s restorative functions facilitate much of our mental and physical health, including our ability to learn efficiently.

But, the real question is, is sleep essential for learning? We already know that coffee allows our brain to fire more neurons when it is consumed because the caffeine blocks the chemical adenosine responsible for slowing down nerve activity. Firing more neurons allows for higher brain activity/efficiency and more capacity for performing tasks.

Isn’t that enough to facilitate learning?

Sorry for the teaser but… Stay tuned for part 3.

Craig

 

About the Author

Craig-PhotoCraig Jensen is the President and CEO of LearnNowOnline. Craig has led the company’s change from instructor-led classroom training, to self-study CD/DVD training, to the award winning online learning solutions offered today. Craig is passionate about helping individuals and businesses of all sizes solve their problems through practical learning and technology. He is involved in setting direction for the company, including selecting training content for development with resources to support all learning styles. He is also involved in The CEO Roundtable organization in the Twin Cities as well as the Minnesota High Tech organization. In his spare time, Craig loves to travel, golf, and partake in water sports of all kinds.

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Why Sleep When You Can Drink Coffee?

As I am sitting in my office trying hard to not fall asleep, I am realizing I didn’t get enough sleep last night.  If you are like me (and 82% of adults nationwide), you probably drink many cups of coffee every morning. It not only feels like a great way to wake up but also seems to help create an energy boost after not sleeping enough the night before.

I am always interested in learning, so I’ve looked into the effects of both coffee and sleep on the body and the brain, specifically.  It’s fascinating–in my opinion–how coffee and sleep can impact your ability to learn.

I’ll start with coffee, and if you don’t want to know the fascinating stuff, just read the next
sentence then go pour yourself a cup.

CoffeeBoostMost of us know that caffeine is a stimulant but few likely know how drinking a cup actually affects us, other than making us feel more alert.

Coffee (caffeine) doesn’t really provide a boost of new energy.  It actually tricks our brain into thinking that we aren’t running out of the energy that we already have. This is because, to the brain, caffeine looks just like the chemical adenosine, which is naturally released over the course of a day.

Adenosine is largely what is responsible for causing us to become sleepy because as it builds up over the day and binds to receptors in the brain, it slows down nerve cell activity, causing you to progressively feel the need to sleep and recuperate.  However, because caffeine looks like adenosine to the brain, when it is ingested, it binds to these receptors and blocks the adenosine from doing so. Because caffeine doesn’t have the same “slowing” effect as adenosine, your brain doesn’t register that it’s time for sleep.

Because of this effect, you become less drowsy and your brain is able to fire neurons at a higher pace and continue working at a better efficiency.  The problem with this is that we “crash” later in the day because all of the built up adenosine that has been blocked can finally rush to the receptors, overloading them and bringing a feeling of extreme drowsiness.

In addition to its ability to “block” sleepiness, caffeine also helps produce adrenaline, which makes the heart beat faster and increases blood flow. And, some recent studies seem to indicate that if you consume coffee right after learning something new, there is a better chance you will be able to remember it the next day.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ, above was a real snoozer, huh?

Of course, “everything in moderation:” scientists say that up to 400 mg of caffeine is ok on a daily basis, but anything more could become excessive. That’s the equivalent of about 4-5 cups of coffee, 10 cans of caffeinated pop, or two energy drink shots, depending on the strength of each drink.

One downside is that if you drink coffee (caffeine) consistently, your body will build up a “tolerance” (this is actually your brain adding more adenosine receptors that the caffeine can bind to) and thus will require more of it to achieve the same effect. The easiest way to limit this is to be mindful; try to limit your caffeine intake when possible so that when you do need that boost, you won’t have to take in an unhealthy amount of caffeine.

So, is coffee a sufficient replacement/solution for not sleeping enough? And does it impact learning?

Stay tuned,

Craig

 

About the Author

Craig-PhotoCraig Jensen is the President and CEO of LearnNowOnline. Craig has led the company’s change from instructor-led classroom training, to self-study CD/DVD training, to the award winning online learning solutions offered today. Craig is passionate about helping individuals and businesses of all sizes solve their problems through practical learning and technology. He is involved in setting direction for the company, including selecting training content for development with resources to support all learning styles. He is also involved in The CEO Roundtable organization in the Twin Cities as well as the Minnesota High Tech organization. In his spare time, Craig loves to travel, golf, and partake in water sports of all kinds.

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