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Body clocks and sleep

Exam Fitness

Dr Aric Sigman

Research has shown that success in exams depends on physical as well as intellectual fitness, and while there is no substitute for studying, keeping yourself in good physical shape will help you to make the most of what you´ve learned. The following advice will enable you to perform at your best at exam time.


Many people believe that there are two kinds of student: the fit, sun-tanned type with bulging muscles and a low IQ, and the weak, pasty academics, who wear thick glasses and pass all their exams. The implication is that students are either intellectual or physical, which is not in fact the case. Recent studies have found that students who take regular exercise generally do better at school than those who donít. For example, twenty minutes of aerobic exercise will immediately bring about:

an improved performance in IQ tests,

∑ a reduction in stress,

∑ improved levels of alertness and concentration,

∑ faster, clearer, more creative thinking,

∑ an improvement in your memory.

So, try to do some aerobic exercise at least three times a week. But remember, as exercise peps you up, itís better not to do it near bedtime. It could cause insomnia. And on the exam day, exercise before your exam starts, preferably outdoors.

Body clocks and sleep

Our bodies and minds are programmed to run to a particular schedule and our mental and physical abilities change dramatically during a day. For example, concentration, memory and the ability to work with our hands, all reach a peak in the afternoon, and fall to a low in the middle of the night. Our body clocks are set and kept in sync by daylight which also keeps us alert. Confusing your body clock will make you less alert and less effective. Lack of sleep will not stop a surgeon from operating successfully or a pilot from landing a jet, but will affect a studentís ability to read a book and remember things well.

Some points to remember:

∑ If you have to get someone to wake you up every morning, you are not getting enough sleep.

∑ You should sleep at regular times so as not to confuse your body clock.

∑ You must get enough daylight. Study in a well-lit room, preferably near a window.

∑ The best times to study are between 9.00 and 12.00 noon, and then late afternoon between 4.00 and 6.00.

∑ The worst times are after lunch, because your body clock goes into a dip between 1.00 p.m. and 3.00 p.m., and also late at night. You may think you are more creative after 11.00 p.m., but remember that most exams take place during the day. Studying late at night will disrupt your body clock.

∑ A short nap during the afternoon will help you study and could result in an improved performance Ė just make sure you donít fall asleep during your exam.

Final points

∑ Donít study more than four or five hours a day on top of your school or other work.

∑ Whatever you tell yourself or other people, studying with the TV or radio on adversely affects your ability to absorb what youíre trying to learn. The same goes for any background music which competes for your attention. Choose music you find pleasant, not incredible.

∑ Study with a friend Ė it helps you feel you arenít suffering alone.

Date: 2015-12-17; view: 966

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