“Help! I can’t sleep and I have an exam tomorrow!” Sound familiar? We hear you. When you’re in the midst of exam season, it can be tough to turn your brain off and de-stress enough to get a good night’s rest. What you may have not realised, though, is that sleep is actually the secret ingredient that can help you ace your exams! Offering a range of physical and cognitive benefits, a peaceful sleep can help you excel in your studies.
Here, we explore these benefits and some handy tips for improving your sleep quality.
The importance of sleep for academic performance
Aside from the overall health benefits of a good night’s rest, a peaceful sleep also works wonders for your academic performance, enhancing your memory, focus and concentration. Researchers have noticed that even small amounts of sleep deprivation can majorly decrease these cognitive functions. Better sleep can also help you stay motivated and manage your time more effectively.
While the amount of sleep a person receives is extremely important, the quality of sleep is equally crucial. Poor sleep quality is frequently reported by tertiary students and has been found to predict worse academic outcomes. In short, getting a good night’s rest is one of the top study hacks to implement during exam season.
8 tips to help you have a good night’s rest
1. Turn off the light
Being in a dark environment signals to your brain that it is time to sleep, triggering the release of a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin helps you fall asleep and have a good rest; on the flip side, when it’s light your body stops producing the hormone, keeping you more alert.
To make the most of this natural substance in your body, dim the lights and draw the curtains as you are preparing to wind down. Avoid screen time as you get ready for bed (try reading a book instead) and go to sleep in a dark room.
2. Unwind before bed
When you are feeling stressed, your body produces a hormone called cortisol, which can have a noticeable effect on your ability to have a peaceful sleep. You can counteract this by creating a relaxing routine in the evenings, which could include gentle stretching (like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing) or even just sitting back with a chamomile tea and listening to some soothing music.
3. Burn off your excess energy
There are many benefits to regular exercise – and one of them is improved sleep! Not only can exercise give you more energy during the day, but it can help to reduce the amount of time it takes for you to fall asleep – a welcome alternative to counting sheep.
4. Reduce noise
Even when you’re sleeping, your brain is still busy processing sounds, which can prevent you from having a good night’s sleep. There are things that you can control in your own environment, like putting your phone on silent and switching off the television.
Of course, there are some sounds that you can’t control like your neighbour’s music or traffic on the street. To drown out these sounds, try creating white noise (e.g. with a fan), using high-quality ear plugs, getting a floor rug to help absorb sounds in your room or even placing a rolled-up towel at the bottom of your door.
5. Cut down on caffeine
For many students, coffee and other caffeinated beverages are an essential part of every day. Don’t worry, we aren’t going to recommend that you cut them out completely.
However, it’s key to remember that caffeine has a long life, meaning it can take between three to five hours to leave your system. One study has found that consuming caffeine six hours before bed can still have a disruptive effect on your sleep patterns.
Be aware of how much caffeine you are consuming, bearing in mind that it’s not just found in coffee. Check the label on black tea, chocolate, soft drinks, energy drinks and supplements. Do your best not to have any for at least six hours or more before bedtime.
6. Make your bed a study-free zone
While studying from the comfort of your bed may be tempting, it’s best to avoid it. Experts recommend ensuring that your bed is reserved for rest. If you start doing other things in bed, like studying, working or even playing video games, your brain will start to associate bed with being alert, rather than sleeping.
7. Keep a consistent routine
Try your best to keep to a routine as much as possible. If you can, aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Most adults require between seven and nine hours of sleep each day, so that should be your goal. Forming consistent sleep-wake patterns will not only have a positive effect on your sleep quality but will be better for your overall health.
8. Get comfortable
Don’t underestimate the power of a good bedroom environment. Much like the perfect study space can improve the quality of your study sessions, the perfect bedroom setup can enhance your sleep quality.
Make sure your room is at a comfortable temperature, dark enough, and quiet enough. You’ll also want to invest in high-quality pillows and bedding. These items don’t have to break the bank, especially if you keep your eye out for sale items.