Thinking about pulling an all-nighter before an exam? Think again! This is generally a bad idea and as having a good night of sleep is much more important than cramming information the night before; and you'll just end up not being able to concentrate during the actual test.
However, for some of us, even when we try to go to bed, we are so nervous we can’t stop our brain from thinking about the exam and end up not getting much rest either. So, what can we do to help us get better sleep and stop us from being drowsy and tired the next day? Here are some tips which may help.
Don't panic if you can't sleep
Having experienced this myself, not being able to fall asleep can make you frustrated, worsen the anxiety and stress your brain out even more. It’s not the best idea to have your alarm clock beside you and glancing up every 15 minutes to see how late it is only to get angry at yourself for not being able to fall asleep. Instead, don’t worry about the time and just relax lying there even if you don’t feel sleepy, which is still better than getting no rest at all.
Don’t force yourself to sleep
I still remember the night before my HSC English exam when I went to bed at 10:45pm. I tried to force myself to sleep within 15 minutes so I would get the adequate 8 hours of rest. It doesn't work; you can't set deadlines on falling asleep. The more you pressure yourself to fall asleep, the less likely that's going to happen.
As Scott Ries (Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati Neuroscience Institute) said, “you can’t force yourself to sleep... It’s something that relies on you being able to let go.”
Remember those times when you were watching TV and you dosed off so easily? Move your mind away from trying to sleep and even if you can’t stop thinking about the exam, you will eventually become tired after a while. (By the way, that doesn't mean you should start watching a series late at night in an effort to get sleepy either).
Sleep at the same time as you normally would
I'm sure some of you may have had the good intention of wanting to sleep an hour or two earlier than usual before an exam to get some extra sleep. For some people, going to bed an hour earlier than usual is really easy. However, for me, I just end up not feeling tired at all and unable to fall asleep for another few hours. In the end, I actually fall asleep later than usual.
Your body is used to feeling tired around the same time every night. It is adjusted to your daily cycle and routines; changing this the night before an exam is like cramming sleep, it usually doesn't work very well.
Try to think about relaxation and calmness
It may be hard to move your mind away from something you may feel is very important, but simply trying to avoid thinking about it may help. It also tends to be more helpful to occupy your mind with thoughts of relaxation and calmness; this may sound slightly corny, but imagining calm sceneries of waterfalls or rainforests has actually been shown to be effective. Weirdly enough, self-hypnosis can also help; think about relaxing each individual body part from your feet to your shoulders (kind of like meditation).
There are also plenty of articles on the Internet on how to improve your general sleeping habits, have a browse and see which techniques works the best for you and let us know!
Jack Zheng | N° 3