With exam season in full swing, our sleep expert, Dr Nerina,
offers the following advice to teens and young adults studying for
exams, to help you get a good night's sleep:

  1. 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.

  2. Take regular breaks - our ability to concentrate runs in cycles
    of roughly 90 minutes. After this time, the working memory in the
    prefrontal cortex shuts down and we stop retaining info. Even a
    5-10 minute break can help to 'unload' the working memory so we
    come back to the task with renewed focus. Get up and move around,
    eat a piece of fruit, avoid checking emails and going on the
    internet... the aim is to give your brain a complete rest.

  3. Engage a different part of the brain: related to the above,
    give yourself a break by doing something totally different with
    your brain such as juggling, using a hula hoop or even playing
    darts. Again, this helps to empty the working memory.

  4. Get good sleep - get into a good sleep routine, wind down
    before you go to bed by reading or watching something easy. Don't
    study in bed and try to have at least 1 hour free from technology
    (Facebook/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 2 and 5pm can significantly enhance cognitive

  5. Awareness - 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.

  6. Support - related to the above, get some support. Who can you
    talk to? Make sure you have good support strategies which might
    range from going to the gym and letting off some steam to talking
    to a close friend or relative - or keeping a journal.

  7. Take a deep breath - if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed
    and anxious, stop whatever you are doing and take a deep breath
    from your belly. As you exhale, imagine that you are blowing out a
    candle flame and make the exhalation long and slow. This
    immediately has a calming and stress-relieving effect.

  8. Practise the 'worst possible scenario - we can become
    overwhelmed when we don't allow ourselves to confront the anxieties
    and fears lurking around in our subconscious. So bring them into
    your conscious mind by getting a pencil and paper and brainstorming
    all of the things you are afraid might happen if things don't go
    the way you hope. Really use your imagination even if it feels a
    bit ridiculous. And then ask yourself 'could I live with this
    outcome? What could I do if I don't pass this exam'. Again write
    out every possible alternative option you can think of and build
    contingency plans.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.
    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 practise this
    sort of exercise are healthier and more able to cope with stress
    and adversity.

If you follow these handy tips while you are revising for tests
or exams, you should be able to sleep soundly during this stressful
period. Make sure you get organised and plan ahead to avoid late
night revision and cramming sessions. Good luck!