Exam stress for children and how to deal with it

Teach Students to Sleep Well During Exam Season

Students tend to lose a lot of their sleep during their exam time.
Whether it’s the thousands of students prepping for GCSEs and A-Levels or the undergraduates sitting their final exams, studying is high on the agenda, but what about sleep? Well sleep is often bottom of the list, during this stressful period.

While it is extremely important to study and revise, it’s also extremely important that you sleep. Teens are at an important stage of their growth and development. Because of this, they need more sleep than adults. The average teen needs about nine hours of sleep each night to feel alert and well rested. There are many factors that keep teens from getting enough sleep, such as exam season.

We need sleep to function optimally and perform at our best – it enables us to react more quickly to situations, have a more developed memory, learn more effectively and solve problems. Sacrificing sleep is actually more detrimental to mental alertness than cramming in last minute revision.

Research shows that as teens head into exam season they skimp on vital sleep as they cram in up to 14-plus hours of exam revision each week. In the month leading up to exams, the number of teenagers who had just five to six hours sleep a night doubled from 10% to 20%.

Whatever the age, as you battle through the most stressful few weeks of the school year, here’s some top tips for surviving The Exam Weeks!

  • BE PREPARED: The best way to manage stress and anxiety around exam time is to be as prepared as possible. Draw up a rough ‘revision timetable’ of what you need to revise when to ensure every subject is covered – and stick to it!
  • SLEEP WELL: Most of us need around seven hours of sleep every night, teenagers a little more (around eight to nine hours) and those in year 6, need around 10 -11 hours. It’s not enough to know how to study — you need to know when to study too. It may not be the difference between passing and failing, but it very well may be the difference between a C and an A or a B in a class. Don’t try to pull an all-nighter to cram for an exam! We know it’s tempting, but DON’T DO IT! After staying up all night, you’ll likely remember less of everything you studied and your ability to reason your way to answers you’re unsure of will be severely diminished. Lack of sleep results in poor coping strategies for managing stress and ‘fuzzy’ thinking. The best bet by far is to study often and in advance and build in a good rest before the big day. Sleeping on a comfortable, supportive bed can really help with a good night’s sleep.
  • GET PHYSICAL: Physical exertion provides an outlet for mental stress. Let off some steam by walking, running, getting involved in a sport etc. However, just don’t exercise too close to bedtime!
  • PRIORITISE: The sheer amount of revision to be done can sometimes seem overwhelming. Set priorities and work on the most urgent first. Break tasks down into manageable chunks and set goals that are reasonable.
  • PRACTICE A RELAXATION TECHNIQUES: Relaxation techniques can help to create a sense of calm and are simple to perform in the bedroom without any special equipment. Deep breathing with your eyes closed is a simple way to remedy stress. Focus on your breath as you deeply inhale and exhale. Watch our video here.
  • CHANGE THE SCENERY: Persistence is key when it comes to studying, but a change of scenery can reduce stress levels. Head outdoors to breathe in some fresh air and, if possible, take a walk. Sprucing up your space such as changing posters around or tidying your room is another way to change the scenery when you can’t break away.
  • SOCIALISE – A LITTLE: Getting together with friends is another healthy way to blow off steam and chat with others who know just how you feel. Sometimes just being around other people who understand is enough to feel better – at other times, talk about your stress and ask for help from family and friends.
  • EAT WELL: Stress eating can seriously disrupt healthy eating habits. Ditch the chocolate and crisps and keep healthy, easy-to-eat snacks around such as nuts, fresh fruit or raw vegetables.
  • POSTIVE SELF-TALK: Thoughts, feelings, and behaviour are connected so it’s important to monitor self-talk, focus on the present, set realistic goals, and remain appropriately optimistic.

As a parent, teacher, lecturer or friend, remind students to study but don’t forget to encourage them to sleep well and snooze their way to success during the exam season. Getting enough sleep is vital to feeling and performing your best, which makes a good night’s rest particularly vital around exam time. Good luck to all the students appearing in exams this season!

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