When a final exam is on the horizon, students tend to stay up late in an attempt to memorize all of their class notes and study materials. But cramming isn’t always effective, and a night of rest can make a big difference on test day. The key is to plan ahead, and begin reviewing notes early.
Then, avoid distractions such as TV and smartphones. It is important to have a consistent sleep schedule — and that goes for the entire semester, not just the weeks before exams. Getting enough quality sleep replenishes energy reserves, strengthens the immune system, and promotes growth and development. Insufficient sleep leads to a wide range of health problems, including impaired cognition and depression.
A new study examined the impact of sleep on students during exam preparation. Researchers recruited 100 students and analyzed their Fitbit data throughout the semester, looking for patterns in their sleep before quizzes and exams. They also compared those patterns to student’s test scores. As expected, teens who stirred a lot in their sleep tended to perform worse on tests. But the most important factor wasn’t how much sleep a teen got the night before the test. It was how consistent their sleep habits were a week or even a month before the exam.
It’s important to know that exam stress can interfere with sleep, and can cause a downward spiral in performance. This is especially true for high school and college seniors, whose final grades can make or break their academic careers. These students often load up on caffeine to pull an all-nighter in order to get the best possible score. But this may not be the right approach, and students should take steps to improve their sleeping habits a few days before the test.