The end of the school year can be a stressful time for students. The time and energy spent writing papers, memorizing formulas, and taking final exams can take its toll, especially when sleep becomes an afterthought.
Many sleep experts say that burning the midnight oil in lieu of rest may not ensure an A+ when it comes to final exams.
“To get through finals a student needs to be sharp, well rested and have their full cognitive abilities turned on,” said Dr. Carolyn Dean, ND, founder of RnA ReSet, to Mattress Clarity via email.
Dean told us that a lack of sleep does not allow the brain to repair and re-charge or lower stress levels. It also increases daytime tiredness and reduces endurance and focus.
Mattress Clarity spoke to Dean and two additional experts in the field of wellness and sleep about the best ways to manage sleep while getting through those dreaded exams. Here are their top pieces of advice.
Dr. Carolyn Dean, ND, bestselling author, health and wellness thought leader, and founder of RnA ReSet:
- Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible. If streetlight shines through your curtains, put up blackout shades or blinds, Deal told us. Block any bright LED displays in your room before you go to bed. Use dim nightlights in the hallway and bathroom so you don’t have to switch on ceiling lights if nature calls during the night.
- Stay cool. Your body temperature naturally decreases during sleep. If your bedroom is too hot, Dean says that it can affect the quantity and quality of your sleep. Research suggests that a cool room (between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit) helps keep your body at the right sleeping temperature, she told us. Be sure the covers you sleep under are the right thickness to keep you comfortable and not too warm. On hot summer nights, cool the room with a ceiling fan or a fan placed in front of an open window.
- Unplug your devices. One of the biggest things we do now that negatively affects our sleep is exposure to our phones before bedtime, Dean told us. The blue light from the screens is detrimental to our sleep because it negatively impacts melatonin production, making it more difficult to move into the sleep cycle. Turn off devices at least an hour before bed.
Dr. Jeff Rodgers, DMD, D-ABDSM, D-ASBA, a dental sleep medicine practitioner and expert in sleep:
- Don’t force an all-nighter. The biggest piece of advice is to get some sleep, Rodgers said via email to Mattress Clarity. All-nighters may seem like a great way to study, but you need deep sleep in order for the things you are studying to actually get ingrained in your memory for good recall. “It is better to stop studying and get some sleep (at least 4 – 5 hours if that’s all you can manage) than to study all night and take the test without rest,” he told us
- Be careful with caffeine consumption. Be very careful with caffeine intake. With too much, you will get jittery — and while you may be awake, you will be less sharp mentally, Rodgers said.
Dr. Rick Swartzburg, D.C., vice president of product development for the Snuggle-Pedic mattress and pillow company:
- Make sure you get a breathable mattress. Swartzburg said a mattress that can regulate your body heat is key, as body temperature rises during sleep. If your body gets too hot, it can disrupt your sleep at later stages in the sleep cycle.
- Use breathable sheets. More and more bed sheets are advertising that they are made from fabric that breathes, such as Egyptian cotton, but they are ultimately microfiber blends that that do not breathe well, ensuring that body heat will not escape as the night goes on. Swartzburg recommends using breathable cotton sheets or jersey knitted sheets that have a much more breathable matrix (much like a cotton t-shirt).
- If you can’t block out the light when you are sleeping, use an eye mask. Some blinds just don’t provide a dark enough environment to block the blue light spectrum that has been shown to reduce the melatonin formation needed for good quality and quantity sleep. Swartzburg says a truly dark environment is necessary for helping the body repair itself and reduce inflammation
When Exams Are Over
While it’s important to prioritize sleep during finals, it’s also important to get rest after the tests are done, says Rodgers.
“Because you are in a sub-optimal mental and physical state during finals, you need to hit the sheets, eat well and recuperate,” he told us.
It may be tempting to go out and party so you can decompress, but after finals, Rodgers said you are going to be much more susceptible to bad outcomes from alcohol consumption because of sheer exhaustion. He recommends giving your body a chance to recuperate prior to celebrating.
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