It is that time of year when many young people are revising and preparing for exams. It is hard not to feel stressed by exams particularly when the outcome can have a significant effect on your future.
So what can you do to improve your revision and your performance in the exams? There are two lifestyle factors that can have a substantial impact on your performance: your sleep and your nutrition.
Sleep for Better Exam Performance
Research into the role of sleep has shown that poor or inadequate sleep causes drowsiness that leads to reduced performance and memory impairment. Insight and higher-level learning is also aided by sleep.
The amount of sleep we need varies with age. Adults need about 7.5 hours whereas teenagers need about 8.5 hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, during the teenage years the brain is going through a number of neurological changes that mean that young adults tend to want to go to sleep later and get up later than when they were younger. School timetables don’t fit in with that pattern but it may be possible during the revision time leading up to exams. You can catch up a bit at weekends but it is not as effective as regular good quality sleep
Some top sleep tips:
- Treat your sleep seriously. While you are revising, get into a regular routine of going to bed before midnight and sleeping up to 8 hours if your commitments will allow.
- Leave electronic equipment outside the bedroom to avoid stimulation. So, no mobile, no TV, and no computers in the bedroom.
- Dim down light levels as the evening progresses and make sure your bedroom is completely dark. This facilitates the brain to produce melatonin and the neurotransmitters that aid good sleep.
- Keep your bedroom cool, quiet and well-ventilated.
- To induce sleep, listen to relaxing music, read a calming book or watch an amusing TV program. Do not watch the TV news or read a page-turner or do anything that will over-stimulate you.
- Avoid or reduce caffeine in the afternoon and evening that includes coffee and energy drinks.
- Reduce or avoid alcohol in the evenings. It negatively effects the quality of sleep.
- Exercise in the morning or afternoon. Only do light stretching exercises in the evening.
Nutrition for Better Exam Performance
Our food provides the building blocks for our brains and our bodies. Good nutrition supports your mood and your brain function. Poor nutrition results in mood swings, stress on our internal organs and erratic brain function.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and de-caffeinated drinks. Avoid sugary, caffeinated drinks because they increase the level of the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, in the blood.
- Reduce added sugar in your diet. Sugars in processed foods go under many names including: agave, dextrose, fructose, glucose, maltose, sorbitol, sucrose, and corn syrup. Eat fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Substitute unrefined complex carbohydrates for simple carbohydrates. Eat wholemeal bread, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, grains, beans and pulses.
- Foods that are good for brain function and mood include: salmon, mackerel, herring, flax and pumpkin seeds, meat and eggs.
- Foods that are good for sleep include: dark cherries, almonds, kale, bananas, honey, flaxseeds and grapes.
If you need any help to relax and improve your revision and exam performance contact me so we can chat about how I can help you.