By Lisa Artis on May 9, 2017
It may be the spring season, but it’s also exam season.
Whether it’s the year 6s taking their SATs, the thousands prepping for GCSEs and A-Levels or the undergraduates sitting their final exams, studying is high on the agenda and sleep? Well sleep is often bottom of the list.
While it is extremely important to study and revise, it’s also essential that you sleep. We need sleep to function and perform at our best – it enables us to react more quickly to situations, have a more developed memory, learn more effectively and solve problems. Sacrificing sleep is actually more detrimental to mental alertness than cramming in last minute revision.
Research we did a couple of years ago found that as teens head into exam season they skimp on vital sleep as they cram in up to 14-plus hours of exam revision each week. In the month leading up to exams, the number of teenagers who had just five to six hours sleep a night doubled from 10% to 20%.
Whatever the age, as you battle through the most stressful few weeks of the school year, here’s some top tips for surviving The Exam Weeks:
• BE PREPARED. The best way to manage stress and anxiety around exam time is to be as prepared as possible. Draw up a rough ‘revision timetable’ of what you need to revise when to ensure every subject is covered – and stick to it!
• SLEEP WELL. Most of us need around seven hours of sleep every night, teenagers a little more (around eight to nine hours) and those in year 6 around 10 -11 hours. Don’t try to pull an all-nighter to cram for an exam! Lack of sleep results in poor coping strategies for managing stress and ‘fuzzy’ thinking. The best bet by far is to study often and in advance and build in a good rest before the big day. Sleeping on a comfortable, supportive bed can really help with a good night’s sleep.
• GET PHYSICAL. Physical exertion provides an outlet for mental stress. Let off some steam by walking, running, getting involved in a sport etc. Just don’t exercise too close to bedtime!
• PRIORITISE. The sheer amount of revision to be done can sometimes seem overwhelming. Set priorities and work on the most urgent first. Break tasks down into manageable chunks and set goals that are reasonable.
• PRACTICE A RELAXATION TECHNIQUES. Relaxation techniques can help to create a sense of calm and are simple to perform in the bedroom without any special equipment. Deep breathing with your eyes closed is a simple way to remedy stress. Focus on your breath as you deeply inhale and exhale. Watch our video here.
• CHANGE THE SCENERY. Persistence is key when it comes to studying, but a change of scenery can reduce stress levels. Head outdoors to breathe in some fresh air and, if possible, take a walk. Sprucing up your space such as changing posters around or tidying your room is another way to change the scenery when you can’t break away.
• SOCIALISE – A LITTLE! Getting together with friends is another healthy way to blow off steam and chat with others who know just how you feel. Sometimes just being around other people who understand is enough to feel better – at other times, talk about your stress and ask for help from family and friends.
• EAT WELL. Stress eating can seriously disrupt healthy eating habits. Ditch the chocolate and crisps and keep healthy, easy-to-eat snacks around such as nuts, fresh fruit or raw vegetables.
• POSTIVE SELF-TALK. Thoughts, feelings, and behaviour are connected so it’s important to monitor self-talk, focus on the present, set realistic goals, and remain appropriately optimistic.
As a parent, teacher, lecturer or friend, remind students to study but don’t forget to encourage them to sleep well and snooze their way to success during the exam season.