12:58pm Wednesday 19 February 2020

Get some zzzzs if you want some As

Siobhan Banks testing for sleep brain wave activity.

While students may be tempted to keep the books open until the wee hours of the morning they may be better served to snooze and maintain a regular sleep pattern to allow the brain to store the new information.

Research Fellow with the Centre for Sleep Research, Dr Siobhan Banks, says when preparing for an exam it’s vital your body stays in routine.

“One of the most important things over the next couple of weeks is to get that consistent sleep, it’s been found that your memory just doesn’t function very well if you don’t get a good amount of sleep,” she says.

“In fact, having a good period of healthy sleep after a day of cramming, helps consolidate all those memories.”

Those looking to consume a year’s worth of information in just a couple of days before the exam will perform worse if they work through the night trying to take in the extra information, says Dr Banks.

“If you have a short sleep or stay up all night you are actually short-changing yourself, it’s much better to go to bed at ten have a good eight hours and wake up refreshed the next day,” she says.

“Everything you’ve learnt will be put into long term memory consolidated and will be much easier to retrieve the next day when you have the exam.

“Sleep is really important for making sure you are able to retrieve memories and for feeling relaxed and calm before going into an exam.”

As exams near and the stress and anxiety build, Dr Banks warns students to reduce their intake of caffeine and take time to unwind before the exam.

“Caffeine will elevate your stress and anxiety and make sure to get out into the fresh air or take a walk as those things will help you sleep,” she says.

When tired during the day Dr Banks says it’s a good idea to go with the feeling and take a snooze.

“So if you’re starting to feel yourself get sleepy you should take a nap, even if it’s for 10 or 20 minutes,” she says.

“There are a lot of benefits for cognition, the nap will relax you, it will consolidate your memories and you will be able to focus more.”

Dr Banks highlighted six tips for healthy sleep over the study period:

1. Keep consistent sleep duration each day and always get up at the same time.

2. Have good sleep hygiene making sure you sleep in a cool, dark and quiet environment.

3. Try not to do an all night study session as sleep allows the brain to consolidate memories.

4. If feeling stressed, reduce caffeine intake as it will elevate the feeling and prohibit sleep.

5. Have a bed time routine to allow the body to relax.

6. Take short power naps (10-20mins) to help consolidate memories and to refresh.

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