The upcoming holidays mean final exams are on the way for Iowa high school and college students, which typically means students are staying up late studying or even pulling all-nighters. Students are already known to have poor sleep habits, so adding the stress of exams makes sleep even harder to come by. According to a study done by the Journal of Adolescent Health, more than 70 percent of college students receive less than the recommended eight hours of shut eye each night. In reality, students are actually getting closer to about five or six hours a night.
Sleep is important for all students, as it allows the brain to comprehend and store the information, or studying, retained during the day for later recall. Here are a few ways to help you balance your study and sleep schedules as finals approach:
- Don’t let finals change your schedule – It’s important to make sure you create for yourself a consistent sleep schedule that you follow every day, and a test shouldn’t change that. When you have to account for more studying, adjust your schedule to allow for more study time, without sacrificing your sleep.
- Limit screen time before bed – When it’s time to shut down the studying, take some time away from a screen before you hop into bed. This means computers, tablets, phones and televisions. The blue light emitted from these screens disrupts our body’s natural circadian rhythm, making it harder to fall asleep. Instead, pick up a book, magazine or do another relaxing activity like stretching or yoga.
- Exercise and eat a balanced diet – Exercising releases endorphins that help to reduce stress and make it easier to fall asleep each night. When your mind starts wandering, take a brain break with a trip to the gym or a walk around campus or your neighborhood. Making sure you also eat a balanced diet with healthy snacking, will also keep you feeling and sleeping well. Here are some of our favorite studying super foods.
- Don’t stress about not sleeping – If you drop into bed after a long study session, but can’t seem to fall asleep, don’t stress about it. Worrying about getting enough sleep can actually make it harder to fall asleep. Instead, get out of bed and read a book or do another relaxing activity, but do not go back to studying. Give your brain a break to process the information you’ve been feeding it all day.
In the midst of studying and finals, remember that this is just a small part of your schedule and lifestyle. If you notice you’re having trouble, sleeping or staying asleep, please reach out to one of the doctors at Iowa Sleep to learn more about what you can do to sleep well each night.