Exams, Sleep and Stress

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BY KATHY MCDONALD

Have you tried talking to an IB student lately? I would not recommend it as most of them

are in the throes of exams and just plain old grumpy…. Exhausted! As the school year is gearing down and exams are revving up we must be cognizant of the importance of a goodnight sleep, stress control and time management. Dina Azzam summarizes the importance of sleep “When we miss sleep in order to keep up with our 24/7 world, we pay a price with our ability to learn, our health and safety and our quality of life”. The three most important tips that I voice to young people as I go around to secondary schools when asked about exam preparation is: Get plenty of rest the night before an exam and drink lots of water, mange stress levels appropriately, create a timetable and stick to it.

Sleep can improve memory and spar creativity. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand can significantly increase functional impairment at school. According to the Sleep Journal; sleep deprivation will negatively affect how sharp we are and our cognitive ability. Sleep deficiencies are manifested differently in adults and children. Adults get sleepy and lethargic while the latter gets hyperactive. Simply reflect on a time when your two year old was utterly exhausted… they jump on sofas, running around with a new found burst on energy before they collapse. When teenagers are suffering from a lack of sleep they tend to suffer from depression and anxiety, they also get irritable. Then, so do we. As trite as the following statement may sound I truly believe that there is merit to it: A good night sleep can solve a lot of problems and resolve a lot of conflicts. When clear, calm and more rationale heads prevail it’s amazing what can get done. Dr. Robert Stickgold from Harvard Medical School Sleep Medicine Division a preeminent sleep researcher states that sleep plays an important role in memory before and after learning new situations. Hydration is also important as when the body get dehydrated we can see “an increase in headaches, we can get dizzy, feel faint and weak” according to my family physician Dr. Lorna Teape Humphrey.

Managing stress is a crucial aspect of surviving weeks of exams and all that is involved in the preparation process. Mentally one needs to prepare. I would strongly encourage students to advocate for support from family and friends. This buy in is important as family and friends can make the process much easier with their support, understanding and love. These groups of people for example, can minimize temptation and distractions as well as increase support and understanding. Take advantage of all forms of support. Teachers have deliberately made themselves more available with extra help and office hours. Take advantage of this. They are more than willing to help clarify and tidy up those loose ends. There is no gentle way of saying this: If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Don’t stress about it, simply resolve to do better next year and avoid being in this situation again.

So students, you have prepared as best you could, you are well rested and your stress levels are at an acceptable level. On the morning of the exam make certain to have a solid breakfast. Do not neglect to have adequate healthy foods as snacks. Before leaving home ensure that you have all the essentials: I.D., pencils, erasers, calculator, bottled water. A checklist will come in handy. When the exam is finished, move on. Autopsies don’t help, they only increase your anxieties and frustration and are a big time waster. Just keep moving forward to the next conquest.

So Walk Good Belle Marché.

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