With the Leaving Cert underway, sixth years all around the country have replaced the traditional days of the week system with the names of each date’s exam paper. Every hour of the day is now carefully allocated to a study timetable or revision plan.
Unfortunately combined with the added anxiety of the LC this last-minute cramming can come at the expense of sleep. This is despite the inevitable parent and teacher instigated lecture on the importance of sleep. “You need to make sure you get enough sleep”. “Anything less than 8 hours is inadequate”. Most students are familiar with these kinds of comments, but we are not always so good at enacting their value.
During exam season it can be even more tempting to just keep ploughing through your notes instead of hitting the hay! However, there are scientifically proven benefits to keep in mind during the Leaving Cert (and all year round).
To study or to sleep, that is the question (worth 75 marks)
The night before an exam tends be the point where your brain likes to run through every worst-case scenario possible! Often it focuses on the negatives like the topics or areas of study you are less confident in. An unfortunate consequence of this is that it typically encourages us to stay up and try to cram in as much information as possible. While this may seem like a good idea at the time you might actually be doing more harm than good.
How often have you had to go back and reread something because you took in absolutely none of the information the first time. Or rewind a video because you zoned out initially. The same goes for studying, especially when it is late at night. Cramming information, the evening before may help you to temporarily cling onto some facts. However, it is unlikely to be knowledge that you retain or properly absorb the following day. Instead getting a good night’s sleep will help to keep your mind sharp and ready to show off!
Health benefits of sleep
During exam season we really want to be in the best health possible in order to perform at our highest level. This applies in both the physical and psychological senses.
The more sleep you get during the night, the more beneficial it is for your body’s circadian rhythm. Some experts have also said that the hours before midnight actually provide you with greater benefits by helping to restore and replenish your body.
Similarly, sleep has to been proven to help us maintain our general health too. Usually when we become unwell or get sick it is because our bodies are run-down and more susceptible to illness. Making sure to get plenty of shut-eye will help you to stay fighting fit for your exams.
Sleep is also linked with our supporting our ability to concentrate so that extra hour of sleep may be the key to help you focus for that last hour of your paper.
We recognise that exam seasons tends to invoke a period of stress and anxiety for students. While sleep alone will not be able to completely combat this anxious energy it can alter how you are affected. Try to consider other general occasions where you were exhausted – you’re a Leaving Cert student this shouldn’t take long to recall!
Often during these periods of particular tiredness, we become more sensitive and tense. A simple incident such as dropping a spoon becomes dramatic enough to tip us over the edge and into an abyss of tears and frustration. Fatigue can exacerbate any anxious emotions you are already experiencing. To combat this aim to stay on top of your sleep schedule even when otherwise tempted by a textbook.
Reframe your brain
Traditionally we view things like running marathons, long work shifts or intense sports as exhausting. But just like the effects of tiredness can be physical and mental so too can the causes. The concentration required to sit and perform well during an exam is an immense task and not one to be taken lightly. It is natural to feel drained after a long study session or detailed written paper so be sure to give your brain the break it requires. A good night’s sleep is one if the best ways to recharge before your next exam.
If you still don’t feel confident without a little extra study, consider setting an alarm slightly earlier the following morning. This will allow you to combine some final revision with the added benefit of some good quality sleep. Alternatively, you may respond to your body’s signals that more sleep is required and press snooze!