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The Best Sleep Tips for the Night Before an Exam

A restful night of sleep before a big exam can propel your performance.  We provide expert tips on falling asleep and staying asleep the night before a test. 


By Lynell Ross, Certified Health & Wellness Coach


It is no secret that getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night is essential for mental and physical health. The key to success on any exam is adequate preparation and a good nights sleep. It seems that in our busy lives it is hard to prioritize sleep. Whether it is studying just one more hour or spending another hour on social media, we can all find an excuse to stay up. A good nights rest can lead to better memory retention, appetite regulation as well as increased ability to concentrate. Follow these simple tips and achieving those seven to eight hours is attainable leading to better sleep the night before an exam.


Sticking to a Routine

Create a bedtime routine that works for your schedule well in advance of any exam. This will ensure you will be able to drift off to a full nights rest easily and regardless of any stress from the upcoming test. A bedtime routine consist of reading that book you keep meaning to finish, a skin care routine, listening to your favorite relaxing music, whatever works best for you. What it should not include is anything focused on your smart phone screen, the computer or even the television. These things can keep your brain active and engaged, not allowing for an easy transition to sleep once your head hits the pillow. Studies suggest avoiding screen time for thirty minutes prior to crawling into bed can decrease the time it takes you to fall asleep as well as improving the quality of your sleep. In a day and age where almost everything is accessible at our fingertips learning when to power it down can be an essential element to a restful nights sleep before an exam. 


Keep a Schedule

A sleep schedule helps our bodies know when it is time to go to bed. Sleep helps us retain the material that we have been studying and commits it to memory. By creating a schedule and sticking to it, our bodies will naturally know when it is time to start getting ready for bed. Following the relaxing bedtime routine of choice it will be easier to drift off to sleep and stay asleep once a pattern has been established. It may be difficult at first to determine when to start your bedtime routine. Keep a log for one week of the times that you go to bed. This may help establish the time that will work best for your lifestyle. Once a time has been determined a schedule can be initiated. Sticking to a schedule is crucial to a quality sleep the night before an exam.



Exercise can help decrease anxiety about an up coming exam but can also help you fall asleep the easily the night before an exam. Daily exercise can help you sleep at night. It is difficult to find the time to work out daily. However, if you can find the time to fit in a workout, regardless of time of day, will help you to have a restful night sleep. It is best to perform vigorous exercise if possible but any for of exercise is better than none. Exercise has many additional health benefits including lowering blood pressure, prevention of diabetes, even prevention of heart disease. Finding the best workout for your lifestyle can be difficult but joining a gym, going to classes or even working out at home can be a place to start. Prioritizing exercise can help keep you healthy and lead to a restful night sleep before an exam.


Avoiding Caffeine

Caffeine seems to be a staple of any study session, however any caffeine consumed close to bedtime can greatly impact sleep. Even if solid bedtime routines are established, consuming any amount of caffeine in the eight-hour window prior to bed can disrupt sleep. Using the sleep schedule determine your cutoff time. This includes all coffee and tea (yes, even decaf), sodas, chocolate and any other caffeine containing food or drink. This may be difficult for some, so start slowly. Taking the steps to avoid any caffeine intake eight hours prior to bed time can help lead to a more restful sleep before an exam. 


Avoid Eating a Large Meal Before Bedtime

Consuming a large meal right before bed can disrupt the sleep schedule. Aim to eat dinner a minimum of two hours prior to bedtime the night before an exam. Make sure it is a nutritious meal aimed at fueling the brain. Going to bed on an empty stomach can also cause some issues falling asleep so if you are hungry, try snacking on some nuts or whole wheat toast or crackers. Avoid sugary snacks or processed foods in order to prevent a spike in blood sugar as this can also disrupt sleep. Sticking to this schedule can greatly increase the chances of a good night sleep the night before an exam.


Avoid Cramming the Night Before an Exam

Staying up to study the night before an exam has been proven to lead to poor outcomes on any exam. Not only do our brains need the sleep for basic functions but also information learned is committed to memory as we sleep. Therefore giving adequate time to study leading up to the exam will not only lead to a better score but also a better night sleep the night before the test. 


Achieving a good night sleep the night before an exam can be difficult. Between nerves, anxiety and worries it can be hard to relax enough to get the seven to eight hours needed. However, if a sleep schedule is created well in advance of the exam, a bedtime routine has been established it can be a little easier to fall asleep the night before a big test. Incorporating exercise into the daily routine can be beneficial in many ways, most importantly, increased likelihood of easily falling asleep at night. With proper preparation including adequate time for studying, and meal planning a full nights sleep before an exam is achievable. 

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