Sleep is an essential part of learning. It plays an important role in consolidating new information in the brain. People who get more sleep are better able to recall important information. Sleep can also help improve focus and concentration during the day. When you feel groggy and tired it is nearly impossible to focus on learning new information.
It can be difficult to make sleep a priority, but if you want to function your best, you must. Sleep can help combat stress and help you perform well, so it is especially important as you approach a big exam like the SAT or ACT.
Keep a Schedule
Mayo Clinic suggests that one of the best ways to fall asleep quickly and get enough sleep is stick to a schedule. Try to aim for a specific time to go to bed every night and get up at the same time in the morning. When your body expects falling asleep at a certain time it will be able to fall asleep faster.
Start a Routine
A nighttime routine also has a similar effect. Performing the same routine to wind down at night will signal to your body that it is time to rest. Then, you will fall asleep faster when you lay down. A routine can be as simple as a cup of tea before sleeping or be more elaborate involving music, reading or stretching. Use whatever activity is relaxing for you to establish your routine.
Use Natural Light
Your body uses a hormone called melatonin to regulate sleep. Natural light cycles trigger the release of melatonin in the body. When you can expose your body to plenty of natural light, your body will release more melatonin in the evening and help you feel sleepy. If you can expose yourself to natural light in the morning, your body will also wake up naturally and help you feel less groggy. If natural light is difficult to work with in your home, dim your lights in the evenings or just use lamps to mimic the waning light of the day. There are also sunrise clocks available that use soft light to illuminate your room before the alarm sounds.
Stress can keep you awake and tossing and turning during the night. If you have difficulty falling asleep or wake up during the night, try journaling. Writing down the things that are troubling you will help get them off your mind and help you fall asleep. You can also make a to-do list. Eliminating the need to hold important information in your mind will help you rest easier. Keep a pen and paper by your bed so it is easy to write and you can fall asleep faster.
Eliminate Other Activities
The Sleep Foundation recommends that the only thing you should do in your bed or room is sleep. Try not to read, do homework or study on your bed. When your bed is reserved for sleeping your body will be ready to sleep when you lay down. It will be a space that signals relaxation and rest.
Make sure your room is the ideal temperature for sleeping. Experts say the best temperature for sleeping is around 68 degrees. A room that is too hot or too cold can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night due to discomfort. If you cannot control the temperature in your room with a thermostat, dress appropriately so you will be comfortable and use bedding that insulates, but also breathes.
Food can influence how you sleep. Often large, greasy meals can cause you to wake up at night. Or, if you ate dinner too early, you can wake up hungry. Some experts say the perfect bedtime snack is a small amount of carbohydrates mixed with a little dairy. In other words a bowl of cereal or toast and a glass of milk is a great snack before bed. Prevention Magazine cites a study that found cherries can help you get more sleep. Because cherries are high in melatonin, a glass of tart cherry juice or a few dried cherries 1-2 hours before going to bed may help you fall asleep faster. If you have trouble falling asleep, try cutting out caffeine, especially in the afternoon. Caffeine can still be coursing through your system even hours after you have consumed it.
What Works for You
There are many tricks and tactics you can use to improve your sleep. You have to discover what works for you. Sleep is imperative to performing well throughout life, so it is a great idea to establish healthy sleep habits now.
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