Why you should go to sleep early tonight?
Tomorrow is December 3rd, 2016. It’s a big testing day in New York and the metro area. The SAT and ISEE testing will be performed at multiple locations in the city.
I know that a lot of teenagers will stay up late studying and cramming for the test. When parents tell them that it’s time to call it a day, they will likely rebel and say that they don’t have time to sleep! If that’s your child’s reaction, give them this article and say it’s a practice comprehension test.
Sleep isn’t merely rest or downtime. Our brain comes out to play when head meets pillow. A full night’s sleep includes several stages of rest. They include REM sleep — when the brain flares with activity and dreams. A full night sleep also includes deep sleep when it whispers to itself in a language that is barely audible. Each of these states developed to handle one kind of job, so getting sleep isn’t just something you “should do” or need. It’s your best friend when you want to get really good at something you’ve been working on.
When our clients are studying new vocabulary or memorizing a chapter in a history textbook or learning the periodic table, they review what they learned right before falling asleep and leverage the power of learning during sleep.
How can you do that? Easy.
Hit the hay at your regular time; don’t stay up late checking Instagram. Studies have found that the first half of the night contains the richest dose of so-called deep sleep — the knocked-out-cold variety — and this is when the brain consolidates facts and figures and new words. This is retention territory, and without it (if we stay up too late), we’re foggier the next day on those basic facts.
Whatever you are trying to learn tonight will NOT be available to you during the exam if you don’t stop learning before 9 p.m. and go to sleep before 10:00 p.m.
Just as the first half of a night’s sleep is rich with deep slumber, the second half is brimming with so-called Stage 2 sleep, the kind that consolidates motor memory, the stuff that aspiring musicians and athletes need.
Knowing the difference between sleep stages will help you become tactical about your sleep depending on the type of exam you are taking. Now I have your attention!
If it’s a Spanish Vocabulary test, then turn off the lights earlier than normal, and get up one or two hours before your regular wake up time to study. If it’s a music recital, do the opposite: stay up a little later preparing, and sleep in to your normal time in the morning. If you’re going to burn the candle, it’s good to know which end to burn it on.
What about math tests?
Math tests strain both memory (retention) and understanding (comprehension). This is where REM sleep, the dreaming kind, comes in the full dose of dream-rich sleep, which helps the brain see hidden patterns.
What about Naps? Do they help you study?
By all means. Napping is sleep too, and it’s a miniature version of a full night’s slumber. An hourlong nap typically contains deep sleep, REM and some Stage 2. If you feel a sensation of exhaustion during a period of work it is the brain’s way of saying, “O.K., I’ve studied (or practiced), now it’s time to digest this material and finish the job.”
If you are taking the SAT or the ISEE tomorrow, you will need your REM more than you will need Stage 2 sleep. If you MUST practice some more before the exam, do it early in the morning rather than late at night. It’s your second best to a full night sleep.
I am so nervous, I can’t sleep!
In the past few years, a lot of our clients noticed that they find it hard to fall asleep before the exam. The reason is the cortisol we mentioned earlier in the article. We created this calming meditation for you specifically for the night before the exam. Take a bath, change into your sleepwear, turn off the light, listen to the meditation and follow your breath and go to sleep.
Good luck to you all tomorrow!