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Study hard, sleep harder: Top tip to score well in your exams

Study hard, sleep harder: Top tip to score well in your exams

Youngsters need adequate, undisturbed sleep of at least six to eight hours daily. So, sleeping well the day before an exam is important for better performance, experts say
Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K / Happiest Health

While examinations and assessments are an inevitable part of an individual’s academic career, sleep is an integral requirement of the human body, without which you cannot perform better in daily activities or in examinations. Experts suggest that sleeping well the night before the exam can make a lot of difference compared to sleepless nights (exam preparation nights).

In 2016, a group of researchers conducted a study on 200 students in a private university in Iran. They observed that students who only slept at night received significantly higher exam scores than those who napped during the day. Students who slept 6 to 10 hours at some point within 24 hours before the exam obtained significantly higher exam scores than students who slept less than 6 hours. They concluded the study by stating that adequate nighttime sleep the night before an exam relates to enhanced performance in that exam.


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Role of sleep in memory enhancement

“One of the central functions of sleep is to consolidate long-term memory  i.e. retaining the information learned for a longer duration of time which is helpful in exams. It does so by strengthening various connections between brain cells and pruning back unwanted ones. During the day, the brain makes a lot of connections, some are worth saving, and some are not. When we sleep, the brain streamlines the connections it “needs.” It is a necessity during exams because it helps us focus and retain relevant information which in turn enhances our performance in examinations,” said Dr Trideep Choudhury, Consultant Psychiatrist, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi.

Dr S Saravanan, consultant neurologist, Sagar Hospitals, Bengaluru said, “These are the reasons why we suggest youngsters should have an undisturbed, adequate sleep of 6 to 8 hours (minimum). Even during exams, they should continue the regular pattern of sleep and not change this sleep cycle which will alter their sleep. So, they have to go to bed regularly and wake up at the same time everyday.”

Academicians’ approach to better results in exams

Aloysius D’Mello, Principal, Greenwood High International School, Bengaluru, said, “Catching up on good sleep is very crucial during exams. Students can be stress-free, concentrate better, memorise and analyse better, all of which will help them perform well in exams. A refreshed approach to the task at hand will bring forth better results, while sleep deprivation on the other hand makes it difficult to achieve the same. Hence, students need to be trained in stress-relieving practices and skills like meditation to help them keep calm prior to and during exam time.”

Impact of inadequate sleep

Dr Rajaram G, consultant paediatrician, Rainbow Children’s Hospital, Bengaluru said that having poor sleep during examinations leads to an array of complications such as

  • poor concentration, memory and academic performance
  • increased stress levels and risk of depression-poor immune response which may lead to increased risk of catching infections when exams are around.
  • feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand, burnt out, feeling anxious, etc.,

 Those who do not sleep well also develop symptoms of ‘sleep deprivation’ which include:

  • Day time sleepiness
  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty in thinking 
  • Slow recall
  • Making frequent errors

Dr Choudhury added, “If there is a repeated trend of sleep deprivation during stressful events like exams, it may lead to obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and cardiac diseases in the later part of life.”

Tips to sleep well during exam time

Experts recommend that apart from their preparations, youngsters must make time for sleep to score well. Some of the other recommendations are as follows:

  • Follow a regular sleep schedule. Consistent bedtime and waking time results in better academic performance.
  • If you are not able to go to sleep for about 20 minutes or more, get up and do something calming or boring until you feel sleepy
  • Avoid caffeine and substances with nicotine for at least 4-6 hours before going to bed.
  • Take short naps of 15 to 20 minutes during the day. Short naps help in retaining new information. 
  • Use the bed for sleeping rather than for studying.
  • Reduce screen time
  • Regular physical exercise in moderation and a healthy balanced diet are helpful
  • It can be useful to have a light snack, but a heavy meal right before bed can interrupt sleep.
  • Having a hot bath one or two hours before bedtime can be useful.


Skipping sleep the night before the exam is a common practice among youngsters as they fear their performance the next day in the exam. Academicians and medical experts say that youngsters need to get a minimum of 6-8 hours of sleep during their exams to help them score well. Experts also recommend an array of tips to follow during exams.

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