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The Science Behind Why You Should Sleep Before a big Exam

  • 10th December 2018
  • Lauren Bachelder

At some point in your life, a parent or teacher has probably told you to get some rest before a big test. But is it really that important to avoid “cramming” and instead get a good night’s sleep?

The quick answer is yes! It is absolutely that important, and here’s why:

    1. Sleep actually helps you remember what you worked so hard to study.
      According to this Harvard Medical School blog, your brain uses three processes when it studies: acquisition, consolidation, and recall. Acquisition happens when you read over your notes and memorize material, and recall helps you locate this information during an exam. But in order for the information to stick around for that long, your brain must actually store the information. This storing or “consolidation” only happens through the strengthening of neural connections during sleep.
    2. Sleep greatly increases your attention and critical thinking skills.
      Did you know that 48 hours without sleep causes the same slow reaction time, lack of awareness, and general “fuzziness” as a blood alcohol level of .1% (well over the legal driving limit in every state)? If sleep deprivation makes driving unsafe, just imagine how much harder it makes thinking through exam questions, reading passages, and solving equations!
    3. Sleep allows you to be an active learner (and to continue studying for the next test).
      Especially during finals, it’s important to think ahead before you pull an all-nighter. Do you need to start studying for a different test as soon as your first one is complete? Sleep deprivation often leads to “crashes” where your body takes long naps or sleeps in far beyond what is normal in order to “catch up.” Before you know it, you’ll find yourself rushed to study once again, cramming during another long night.

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