How Good Night's Sleep Affects Exam Success

Last updated on : January 28 2022

She is sleeping.

Getting More Sleep Might Improve Your Examination Results

Exams can be pretty intense when you consider them from the students' perspective. There is a lot at stake, a lot to read, understand and memorize with not a lot of time to get it done. 

As a result, most students choose to go about this high-stress examination period by depriving themselves of sleep as they study like crazy. The added stress and worry connected with examinations can lead to students pulling "all-nighters" or not sleeping at all to study for tests. 

Sadly, this behavior might harm your exams. As much as it might come as a shocker to you, sleep might be the secret to higher exam performance. Yes, various studies show that students who had a good night's sleep get better examination results.

According to the National Library of Medicine, more than a century of research has established that sleep benefits memory retention.

A study done at the University of Belgium shows that pupils who slept 7 hours every night during the exam period performed about 10% better than those who slept less.

Furthermore, students who increased their sleep duration from 6 to 7 hours improved their test performance by an average of 1.7 points (on a scale of 20). 

So get ready to learn how a better sleep regime could be the final piece in your quest for better grades.

How Much Sleep Do Students Need?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should have 7 to 8 hours of sleep every day. Similarly, teenagers require more sleep, ranging from 8 to 10 hours. So on average, a student needs about 8 hours of sleep every day, especially during exams. 

But why would a good night's sleep lead to improved academic performance? 

Because when we sleep, new knowledge is absorbed into our old knowledge base. Memory recall and focus are also significantly better when an individual has had adequate rest. 

These improvements mean that studying ahead of time combined with getting enough rest might improve your recollection, focus, and exam scores. 

Students who get enough sleep have improved grades, recollection, temperament, and health. 

On the flip side, an extended lack of sleep will have an impact on your mind, energy level, ability to focus, concentrate, and study, all of which will have an effect on your academic performance.

Unfortunately, many students choose to cram instead of sleep, believing that the extra time spent studying will help them do better on their examinations. But, according to research, the reverse is the case.

Sleep And The School Environment 

Sleep and school don't seem to blend.

In addition to the stresses caused by class and examinations, becoming a student means no longer being in the confines of a home with rules and scheduled bedtimes. 

A student's newly found freedom is often exhilarating and in itself a cause of sleeplessness as parties and socializing take priority. 

The typical college student sleeps only 6 hours each night and sometimes even less during examination periods. Students sleep less during exams, but they also have poor sleep patterns, so the sleep they do get is of poor quality.

With the odd all-nighter and the intake of caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee, or energy drinks, students are at risk of experiencing sleeplessness, mood swings, and even elevated dangers of alcohol addiction.

When students deprive themselves of sleep, they experience the following:

1. Weight gain 

2. Reduced athletic performance

3. Immune dysfunction and heightened vulnerability to diseases and infections

4. Impaired cognitive function

5. Depression is more likelyFfood

6. Drowsy driving accidents are more likely

7. Increased level of stress

Tips for Getting a Healthy Night's Sleep During Exams

Try these six tips to get a healthy night's sleep.

1. Don't use your smartphone before going to bed.

Lying down and using phone in bed

Because of the blue light smartphones produce, they might deceive you into staying up past your bedtime. Before you know it, that one video has spiraled into a bunch of other videos on YouTube or a funny thread on Twitter, and you're awake when you should be asleep. 

To tackle this, turn off your phone for at least 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed. Listening to calm and soothing music at a reduced volume can also help.  

2. Caffeinated beverages should be limited.

Because finals are so demanding, it's normal to crave energy drinks, coffee, and snacks anytime you need a quick energy boost. 

Sadly, they will almost certainly disrupt your sleep so, try to avoid any sources of caffeine after 3 p.m. and adapt as required. In addition, tobacco and alcohol both impair sleep quality. 

Instead, eat your favorite nutritious meals to keep your energy levels high and your mood in check.

3. Maintain a proper sleep schedule.

The essential thing to remember is to set aside time for sleeping. Every day, go to bed and wake up consistently (weekends inclusive). Try to go to bed in the evenings at the same time. And wake at the same time every morning. 

If you do this, you'll be healthier, have a sharper mind, and get up early and motivated for the day's task. Trying to be consistent with this over time will be hugely beneficial. 

Also, irregular sleep has been associated with poorer results, but consistent sleep can improve academic performance.

Read MoreHow Your Diet Affects Your Sleep

4. Keep track of what you eat and when you eat it.

Eating late at night because you've been studying all day will disrupt your biological clock and make it difficult to sleep. 

As much as you should avoid going to bed hungry, try to have your large meal before 5 or 6 p.m., followed by a smaller snack in the evening if you still feel hungry. 

Do not let the prospect of exams lead you to develop a habit of eating late because eating late at night can cause some health problems, including increased blood sugar levels, heart disease, obesity, and acidity.

Essentially, the later you eat, the less your body is prepared to sleep, which can harm your memory and efficiency the following day. In that case, you'll essentially be counterproductive, and your exams will pay the price.

5. Study at periods of peak brain function.

As the old saying goes, no two individuals are the same, which is valid for cognitive abilities and best reading times. As a student, you have to determine what study and learning times work best. 

Is it the early hours of the day? Maybe at midday or during evening time? Whatever time it may be, work with it judiciously and do not let it cross your sleeping time.

Don't always be quick to follow the crowd, do things at your own pace, so if you need to read for long before you understand, do just that. But set your timetable to be in line with your sleeping schedule.

Planning your daily activities can be hard sometimes, especially when you have a demanding schedule, so look for things to help you out, like WritingUniverse, a platform with free samples and research services if you require assistance with essay writing.

6. Clear your mind before going to bed.

There could be some value to the adage that going to bed with a problem means you'll wake up with a solution - but don't allow the issue to keep you up. 

Sitting and pondering on day-to-day ideas will keep the brain busy, so keep a notepad beside your bed to jot down thoughts before sleep instead. 

If you cannot sleep, do not stay in bed attempting to force yourself to sleep, as that never works. Instead, try taking a walk outside for a couple of minutes or listening to slow ambient music. 


Taking your health seriously and allotting adequate time to sleep is essential. Research strongly supports the benefits of sleep to improve focus, concentration, and exam results.   

On the other hand, bad sleeping habits could be your ultimate undoing and defeat the purpose for which you're at school in the first place. So, go to classes, study hard and bright, and remember, you can only do well if you're healthy.

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