Sleep – The Key to Success
By Sally Writes, Guest Blogger
Circadian Rhythms A Key To Exam Success
With challenging exams such as the SAT are looming ahead, often there is much focus on the concepts of time management, study techniques, and practice tests but one thing you definitely should prioritize is a good night’s sleep. Various studies have been carried out on the effects of sleep deprivation, which cause cognitive impairment, short and long-term memory problems, and an increased likelihood of committing errors. However, obtaining a specific number of hours of shut-eye is not the only determinant factor of exam success. So, too, is respecting your body’s circadian rhythms: the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle.
Night Time Sleep is Key
Of the many circadian rhythms that govern our health and wellbeing, sleeping at night time (rather than during the day) is vital. This rhythm ensures that our body produces chemicals that make us sleepy at night and wide awake during the day. When we spend all night long cramming for exams, or sleep in irregular patterns (e.g. staying up all night and sleeping during the day, then sleeping at night again followed by more cramming in subsequent nights), these vital rhythms are altered and we can find it hard to sleep at night time.
What happens when we have irregular sleep patterns?
Studies carried out on people who have irregular sleeping patterns (because they have rotating shifts, for instance) have shown that around 35.7% of them do not get good quality sleep. There are serious health consequences associated with rotating sleeping patterns, including a heightened risk of heart disease and some cancers. However, there are also important consequences for the brain. A 2016 study published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, found that those who slept in irregular patterns performed worse at tests than those who slept at the same time every night. Memory, processing speed, and overall brainpower were affected.
Moreover, the effects lasted long-term; that is, based on test performance, researchers concluded that “it may take at least five years for previous (irregular hour sleepers) to recover brain functions that are relevant to the performance on this test.”
The Importance of Routine
If you notice that you are constantly tired during the day, you may not be getting enough quality sleep, regardless of the hours you have actually slept. Set up a bed routine that you follow religiously every night. This might include listening to wind-down music, meditating for a few minutes, or practicing progressive muscle relaxation while lying down. Keep the consumption of stimulating foods and beverages such as chocolate and coffee to early in the day, and ensure your bedroom is dark and quiet. Blackout curtains will ensure your room is totally dark, while carpets and insulation will stop noises from ruining your sleep.
Time management is key when it comes to success as a student, but many people forget to bring sleep into the equation. Aim to get at least eight or noun hours of shut-eye every night, and go to bed at the same time to avoid the negative effects on cognitive function caused by irregular sleeping patterns. Quality is as worthy as quantity when it comes to sleep, and this means that routine should be a priority.
A NOTE FROM DR. CAROL…