There’s three letters that still instil fear in me, H.S.C. Which is probably why I’m “working” at EFTM. Although I actually did OK at school, I just wasn’t one for study. But what I was very good at and remain so today was the art of a nap. The following news from Sydney’s sleep expert Cheryl Fingleson is a real eye opener. 

Cheryl The Sleep Coach reckons because Australian high school students are working more hours, while also hammering social media. The missing ingredient our soon to be HSC sufferers lack is sleep.

Cheryl points towards research that proves you can literally sleep your way to the top, so to speak. 

Cheryl The Sleep Coach mounts a pretty strong case if you’re looking to ace those exams, she says, “Students approaching their final set of exams in their final year at school sometimes feel compelled to shave hours of their sleep routine in order to study more. The thing is, the sleeping brain is actually hard at work, processing the events of the day. It sorts and files makes connections and even solves problems. It’s precisely this ‘de-fragging’ of the brain that cleans and primes it to perform better in pressurized conditions,” 

“In fact, a good sleep routine could be the easiest tool students have at their disposal to add a few extra ATAR points to their exam results.”

Some other key pearls of wisdom include:

Lack of sleep makes you bad at learning.

All-nighters are all but useless. After just one night’s poor sleep, your capacity to retain new information drops by 40%. 

Lack of sleep makes you less productive and impairs your memory

Acquisition and recall of knowledge occur only during wakefulness, but research suggests that memory consolidation takes place during sleep because this is when the brain strengthens the neural connections that form our memories.

Lack of sleep affects your health

Poor sleep means a lowered immune system, a propensity towards inflammation, increased blood pressure and impaired stress management. None of these things are an asset at exam time so it’s worth getting your sleep routine well under control long before the big day.

No doubt this is great and somewhat obvious advice, but how can rid yourself of these bad habits? 

Plan ahead. Schedule your sleep times like you would schedule a tutor, a study session or a meal.

Avoid studying in the early afternoon, straight after lunch.  That’s the period of day when you’re likely to be less alert.

Start your bedtime routine earlier than usual and as soon as you feel tired go to bed.

No matter what, make sure you get plenty of sleep on the night before your exam. 

Set a firm bed time, around about 10pm each night, and stick to it. Disconnect all screens and devices, sleep in a dark, well-ventilated room and use natural linens. Drink a glass of water before bed and another when you wake up.

High school-aged students need around nine hours each night.

Don’t overuse caffeinated or energy drinks in an effort to stay alert.  Caffeine stays in your system for 6-8 hours, and can keep you from getting that good night’s sleep right when you really need it.

Sleep has at least as much benefit (and possibly more!) than diet and exercise. Respect it and treat it as an important part of your health regimen. Protect your bedtimes and sleep routines like you would any doctors’ appointment.

Now if you’re the parent of one of these sleep deprived students Cheryl also has a few tips for you, “It’s not just the children who need to manage workloads, stress levels and performance. She advises parents to set the tone in the home by modeling wellness and embracing good sleep habits all year round, but especially at exam time. There are plenty of tools to improve the quality of sleep and ways to get off to sleep more efficiently. And if they can’t do it alone, there is plenty of professional help on hand.”

So, nap away!