Sleep During Exam Season

End of term and exam season might have you burning the candle at both ends but if you are thinking about pulling some all-nighters along the way, think again.

Sleep plays a critical role in brain function and is well-known to help consolidate memories- research has shown that you remember information better if you sleep after studying than if you studied and stayed awake the same amount of time. A lack of good quality sleep can make it harder to focus and think clearly and can cause increased fatigue, irritability, and anxiety during the day.  All of which can cause your academic performance to suffer. 

It is not only the number of hours of sleep that matters but other factors such as quality of sleep are important. A common belief is that lost sleep from a late night of studying can be recovered by “sleeping in” another day or taking naps. However, both of these methods disrupt the body’s circadian rhythms and may deprive the body of deeper sleep stages. It is important to respond, whenever possible, to the body’s natural signals of sleepiness.

To make sure that sleep is benefitting your performance rather than hindering it, take the following steps.

  • Try to stick to your normal sleep schedule during exam season. Go to bed at night and wake up at the same time as you normally would. Make a study plan that includes your sleep schedule to make it possible.

  • Avoid caffeinated beverages for 4-6 hours before bedtime.

  • Stop using electronic devices an hour before you want to go to sleep. If you want to continue to study, use physical notes or flashcards.

  • If you can’t fall asleep, don’t stay in bed. Get up and do quiet relaxing activities, like reading or listening to a podcast until you feel tired enough to fall asleep.

  • If intrusive thoughts are keeping you awake, keep a pad and paper beside your bed and write them down.

For more information and resources to get a good night's rest, check out Student Health and Wellness' section about sleep.