Sleep and Exams: Why You Should Rethink that All-Nighter

With exam season upon us, you may find yourself beginning to fall into the dreaded cycle of getting less and less sleep in order to study for finals. If you’re anything like me, you struggle between deciding whether it’s better to cram for an exam at the cost of sleep, or to make sure you get a good night’s rest instead. I’ve looked into why it may not be the best idea to sacrifice sleep to study for finals – keep reading to see why!

According to sleep specialists, “memory recall and ability to maintain concentration are much improved when an individual is well rested.” That being said, your ability to perform well on an exam is increased when you’ve prepared early and you’re better able to recall what you’ve studied. As I’m sure you’ve found out as some point or another through experience, sleep deprivation affects your mood, energy level, and ability to focus – all things that can directly affect your academic performance.

As unfortunate as it is, coffee isn’t the best solution to a lack of sleep either. While it may boost your energy levels temporarily, all-nighters plus caffeinated beverages increase your risk of developing insomnia or other sleep disorders, which leads to prolonged sleep deprivation and potentially decreased academic performance.

Doctors say that periods of optimal brain function usually occur in the evening around 6 pm - 8pm, so rather than waiting until 2 am to crack open the books, it may just help to study during that optimal time of alertness and concentration. Keep in mind, however, that this can vary for everyone (I find that my productivity level is highest in the afternoon, for example), but the bottom line is to work whenever you feel most alert and productive.

All that being said, optimal times of alertness can vary among individuals, but a good amount of sleep is something we all need. During exam time, try to find a study schedule that best suits you, while making sure it includes getting a good night’s rest so you’re energized and mentally prepared to tackle those finals head on!


Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8