Can you imagine the coach of a football team telling his players to prepare for a big game by staying up late, eating unhealthy food, and not doing any exercise? And yet this is exactly what a lot of students do to prepare for an exam!
Research has consistently shown that your brain doesn’t work as well when you don’t look after yourself. To study effectively - and to be at your best on exam day - you need to make sure you stay healthy.
Get enough sleep
It’s important that you get enough sleep, especially on the night before your exam. Lack of sleep impairs memory and thinking, so if you stay up late to study, you might find that you read more but remember less! Always allow yourself at least eight hours of sleep a night.
If you have difficulty falling asleep, there are several strategies that can help. Choose a regular bedtime and stick to it - set an alarm or reminder if necessary. Before you go to bed, avoid caffeine and take a break from study to give yourself time to relax. When you do go to bed make sure you turn your phone off and put it away, so you won’t be distracted.
Do some exercise
Do you often feel your attention drifting during a long study session? Taking regular exercise helps you stay alert and attentive throughout the day. It can also help you fall asleep at night! You don’t have to do anything too long or strenuous. A brisk 10-minute walk every hour or so is fine.
Try to spend time outdoors, particularly if you’ve been suffering from headaches or sore eyes. Going outside gives your eyes a break from peering at textbooks and screens, and your body a break from sitting at a desk. Sunlight and fresh air don’t hurt either!
Your brain needs food to work. Inadequate nutrition can leave you feeling exhausted and inattentive, while too much caffeine or sugar can make it hard to stay focused. For more effective study, try not using the energy drinks and the instant noodles, and have something healthy instead.
Preparing healthy food doesn’t have to take a long time. A simple salad sandwich takes a couple of minutes, maximum. Fresh fruit makes a healthy snack and doesn’t need to be prepared at all (a tub of diced fruit is also acceptable). Puffed (not popped) corn or rice cakes are a healthier alternative to potato chips.
Avoid sugary snacks and drinks - they give you a brief high followed by a long crash. Alcohol should also be avoided. Being drunk or hungover does not help you study!
Staying healthy isn’t just good for your exam performance, but also your mood and your overall wellbeing. So have a happy and healthy exam period, and try to keep the good habits up through the break!
Do you have a favourite healthy snack? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter@monashunilib