If you’ve got the dreaded pre-exam insomnia, you may be tempted to get some extra cramming in, right? Wrong. It might feel like the last thing you should be doing, but getting enough sleep in the run-up to an exam is vital. As the big day approaches, try these exam sleep tips to keep your mind at the top of its game…
1. Avoid last-minute cramming
Pulling an all-nighter before exam day might seem like a good idea, but put the coffee down.
Research shows that we perform worse when we’re sleep deprived. Stay up to cram and you’ll miss the sleep stage that converts what you’ve learnt into a memory you can recall when the paper’s in front of you.
If you want to perform at your best, make sleep a priority.
2. Stay away from blue light
Don’t play on your phone to wind down after an evening’s revision. The blue light it emits disturbs your sleep by supressing the release of the sleeping hormone, melatonin.
Beat exam insomnia by switching off any devices at least 30 minutes before bed. If you really can’t avoid a final email check, download a blue light filter to minimise your exposure.
3. Wind down
Can’t sleep before exams? Don’t just jump into bed after revising all day. Tell your brain it’s wind-down time by listening to relaxing music, reading a favourite book or taking a bath.
4. Don’t fight your worries
It’s normal to feel anxious when you’re faced with exams, but it’s how you respond to the worry that matters. Battling your doubts only makes them worse.
To avoid having no sleep before exam day, welcome your worries or thoughts as they arrive, but consciously let them go. If your mind wanders off, bring it back to what you were doing.
5. Rest is best
If you wake in the night, resist the urge to get up and start revising. Not only will it tire you out for the day ahead, it can make you wake up at the same time the next night, too. Stay in bed and save your valuable energy for the next day – it’ll train your brain to fall back to sleep.
6. Take active time out
Exercise for at least 30 minutes each day in the run-up to an exam. It’ll improve the depth and quality of your sleep. The endorphin release can be a fantastic stress-buster too, helping to lift your mood and ease those worries.
7. Give yourself a break
When it comes to pre-exam tips, giving yourself a rest from revising is often underestimated, or worse, ignored altogether. Getting your head down for long periods of time might feel like a good idea, but overdoing it can stop your brain switching off at the end of the day.
Schedule regular short breaks every hour to do something completely different, like listening to music, eating a snack or going for a walk. These activities help create head space and boost your productivity when you go back to your revision. Plus, they improve your ability to switch off at night and get the rest you need.
Is your teenager suffering from sleep problems? Read our guide to help them get the sleep they need.