The secret to a great night's sleep

Stressed teens are losing sleep over exams

With the summer exam season getting closer, a new poll out today suggests that many teenagers are already experiencing sleepless nights, with young people getting just five to six hours of sleep after admitting to being kept awake by stress. 



image: Wikipedia

The Sleep Council survey, found that on a usual night, around one in 10 say they get five to six hours of sleep a night, but in the four weeks before exams start, this rises to one in five. Furthermore, while just over a quarter say they usually get six to seven hours of shut-eye, this falls to around one in five in the run up to exams.

It also reveals the impact exam season has on young people, with over one in four  saying they wake up more frequently due to worrying and stress and a similar proportion say they wake up earlier.

Lisa Artis, of the Sleep Council, said: "Our research shows that a worryingly high number of teenagers are not getting as much sleep as they need to function and perform at their best in the build up to exams. They are sacrificing sleep to study when in fact they might be more mentally alert cramming in extra sleep rather than more revision.

Silentnight's resident sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, has compiled some top tips for helping students prepare for exams and lower stress levels: 

Avoid nutritional stress

Eat healthily and stay well hydrated. Snack healthily to maintain blood sugar levels so that your brain is able to absorb information. Avoid caffeine after 2pm so that you can optimise sleep quality.

Engage a different part of the brain

Give yourself a break by doing something totally different with your brain such as juggling, using a hula-hoop or even playing darts. Again, it helps to empty the working memory.


Get good sleep 

Practice good sleep hygiene; wind down before you go to bed by reading or watching something easy. Don't study in bed and try to have at least one hour free from technology (Facebook and Twitter included) before getting into bed. Learn how to power nap. Researchers have shown that even a 5 - 10 min power nap at some time between 2pm and 5pm can significantly enhance cognitive performance.



Pay attention to any 'unusual' symptoms that have started to pop up such as headaches, insomnia, IBS, appetite changes, skin problems, tearfulness, anxiety or depression. These could be signs that you are not coping.



Manage perfectionism 

Recognise your limits and know when you are going over them. If possible, set yourself realistic targets, learn how to ask for help and learn how to say no when the pressure starts to reach unhealthy levels. Stop being so hard on yourself!


Positive strokes

Acknowledge when you've done something well and give yourself something to look forward to every day - even if it's something small like taking time to listen to your favourite upbeat piece of music.  Stay optimistic even when things look bad and take time out to notice even the small things that have gone well, e.g. getting a seat on a train, a nice cup of tea or a nice text message from someone. Research shows that people who practice this sort of exercise are healthier and more able to cope with stress and adversity.


For more sleep tips and advice from Dr Nerina, visit our Sleep Toolkit.



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