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How many hours of sleep do we need to ace our exams?

Published on June 24, 2022


How many hours of sleep do we need to ace our exams?

Are you giving exams on less than 8 hours of sleep like me? Stop now! 

Most high school and college students, much like myself, often stay up all night studying or sleeping extremely late thinking that the more hours of studying they squeeze in, the better we will do on our exams. However, this is a misconception. 

All-nighters do nothing good for our memory and retention. Harvard Medical School psychologist Matt Walker agrees that “practice makes perfect”, “but having a night’s rest after practicing might make you even better.” Consequently, he enforces that memory needs those full 8 hours of sleep. Pulling all-nighters can impair focus, decrease immunity, memory and cognitive function, increase the risk of mental health issues and anxiety, and more. Thus, it becomes necessary to find a way to finish off your exam syllabus without compromising your 8 hours of sleep. 

How should you get these necessary hours of sleep and manage your syllabus? 

Here are a few tips from a fellow struggler who was able to overcome this challenge using the following-

  1. Get yourself a planner well in advance. Being ahead of time will help you plan much better and it will be easier for you to follow it. Even if you lag behind on something you will have enough time to come back to it later.
  2. Write down the syllabus you need to complete for each subject. This will not only give you some direction but also remind you how much you have left. After completing a chapter, tick it off your syllabus. 
  3. Feel free to add subtopics of a chapter in your planner. This will break it down for you so that you can estimate how much time it would take you to finish the chapter. This worked really well for me because if a chapter ever got too much for me, I would leave the last 1 or 2 subtopics and move on to the next; however, since those subtopics were not ticked in my planner, I always remembered to come back to them later.
  4. Make a week-wise timetable, with necessary breaks, and follow it religiously in order to effectively manage your time. You can use the Google Calendar app; it is what I used and it was extremely helpful because it gave me reminders too! For more useful study resources, check out this blog.
  5. Make sure to keep your goals for the week/day realistic. If you expect too much from yourself, not reaching said goals may demotivate you. This was a mistake I always made and I hope that after reading this you will avoid it.  
  6. If you want, add a reward for yourself at the end of every week or maybe at the end of every day too! This worked for me because I had something to look forward to once I completed a certain portion of my syllabus.
  7. Prioritize – put away your distractions, be it your phone, food (a huge distraction, at least for a foodie like me) etc. while you are studying. This is actually one of the most helpful tips. Everyone knows they should do this but actually executing it will really help you focus.
  8. The sense of satisfaction you will get when you tick off topics on your syllabus sheet will naturally motivate you to do more 🙂

If you follow these, you will be able to manage your time much better. This will allow you time for studies as well as recreational activities, and the need to pull all-nighters may vanish altogether!

Pro Tip– Try to start studying early in the morning. Your focus will be much more and by lunchtime, you will already feel like you have accomplished a lot. Trust me, I have tried studying from 2-6 am without sleep telling everyone that I study better at night, but the amount I could study that way compared to what I could early in the morning differed by leaps and bounds. 

Happy Studying!

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