You have a big test coming up at the end of the week. You’re a dedicated, hard-working student, so you know you have to study to do well. The nights before the test, you stay up late, pushing yourself to review and learn as much as you can.
However, while taking the test, you can’t remember a lot of the information you spent so much time going over. Focusing on longer questions is more of a struggle than it should be, and you get irritated or panicked easily when you can’t figure out the answer. In the end, when you see your score, you feel that all that hard work and those late nights didn’t pay off as much as they should have. You wonder what you could have done wrong.
If this story sounds familiar, as it should to many ambitious high schoolers, it’s because you’ve experienced for yourself how sleep deprivation can hurt your performance on test day. Getting enough sleep is one of the most crucial steps you can take to achieve your highest potential score. Here’s how to make sure sleep deprivation isn’t holding you back:
1. Know how much you need. Several recent studies have shown that high school students are chronically sleep-deprived. Sleep scientists agree that adults need at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night, and teenagers probably need even more. If you’re consistently falling behind these numbers, you’ll need to make some changes in your schedule if you really want to get that high score you’re after.
2. Know you might not realize you’re sleep-deprived. Most people assume that as long as they don’t feel tired and drowsy, they aren’t really behind on sleep. In fact, studies show a person can become used to sleep deprivation to the point that they no longer recognize that they’re tired. However, the negative consequences of sleep deprivation still persist. Just because you’re not yawning, it doesn’t mean you’re fully awake and alert.
3. Know what the consequences are. Sleep loss can cause a host of problems for any high-achieving student. Lack of sleep leads to lapses in focus, difficulty memorizing new information, inability to recall important words and facts, problems with multitasking, increased irritability and stress, and quite a few other issues. If you want all your studying to pay off on test day, you have to eliminate these problems. Put simply, you have to get enough sleep to be the best test-taker you can be.
4. Know how to catch up. It’s not enough just to sleep 8 or 9 hours the night before your test. Due to a phenomenon called “sleep debt,” sleep loss actually accumulates over time. Essentially, every time you sleep 5 hours instead of 8, you fall that much further behind the sleep you need. The only way to catch up and get back to your peak self is to sleep well for several nights in a row. You’ll need to plan ahead and make sleep a priority in the week before the test.
Stay well rested and you’ll be at your best on test day! Good luck with the SAT tomorrow!