How to Fall Asleep the Night Before an Exam Every Time


Everyone knows the falling asleep before a major exam can be tough. The Stress and Anxiety caused by the impending exam can have a very negative impact on our ability to fall asleep. We have all been told to count some sheep, and that would help us go to sleep, but, at least for me, that never works.

So how do you fall asleep before a test consistently? Enclosed below is a list of tips and tricks you can employ to help you fall asleep before an exam:

  • Have a reliable study system
  • Reduce caffeine intake the day before the exam
  • Stay away from sugary Foods pink drinks
  • Join a study group
  • Set up your final review the morning before your exam and then stop studying
  • Set up a sleep schedule a week before the exam
  • Reduce screen time the day before the exam

Why there are no guarantees that use these tips will help you sleep, they will put you in a better position to be able to sleep the night before the exam.

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If you are looking for the best study tools out there, you should read our article on the best study tools to enhance your studying at the link below:

The Ultimate Study Tools You Must Use to Succeed!

Have a Reliable Study System

One of the best things you can do to eliminate stress over the exam is to ensure that you are fully prepared to take that exam. While this seems obvious on the surface, it is the most important thing you can do. The reason why you can’t sleep is the uncertainty of doing well on the exam. Knowing that you are prepared will ease your stress, and in turn, reduce the likelihood of a sleepless night.

I know what you’re thinking. This advice I just gave is basic and easier said than done. I agree. That is why I recommend that you have a reliable study and note-taking system in place that you use consistently. There are two core systems that I use for note-taking and time management that elevated my academic performance. It helps me sleep like a baby before exams. These systems are:

  • The Pomodoro Technique
  • The Cornell note-taking system

I cannot tell you the difference that these two systems have made in both my academic as well as professional career. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that breaks up work intervals into modules called Pomodoros. A Pomodoro is a 25-minute unit of time that you will spend working or, in this case, studying. Following each Pomodoro is a five-minute break. After four of these Pomodoros, instead of a 5-minute break, you take a more extended break, typically a half-hour to a full hour.

Having this structure allows you to get work done while still providing a consistent break schedule. It also helps eliminate burnout and overstudying. Additionally, it is a lot easier to get yourself to work for 25 minutes than it is to get yourself to work a long interval without a break.

For more information on the Pomodoro Technique, please check out my article at the link below:

How to Use the Pomodoro Technique to Get Things Done

The Cornell Note-Taking system is the other tool in my arsenal that I have used to prepare for exams consistently and effectively. We have all heard of the adage garbage in garbage out. This adage applies to note-taking and studying. If you take inadequate notes, it follows that your study sessions will be subpar. This result will put you behind the 8-ball and hamper your ability to prepare for and do well an exam. This will definitely affect your ability to sleep the night before the exam.

What I like about the Cornell note-taking method is that it allows you to not only take notes in a structured way but also to quiz yourself on the notes that you’re taking. It is easy when listening to a lecture to simply jot down whatever the professor is saying without processing it mentally. The impact of this is that you don’t fully understand the concept when first hearing it, which will lead you not to understand it later when reviewing your notes.

The Cornell note-taking system, by requiring you to create questions based upon your notes, forces you to actively listen to understand the content taught at a level suitable to generate those questions. This active listening is key to effective note-taking as well as the ability to create questions that will likely rival those that you will actually see on the test. This will help you feel more prepared for the exam and, in turn, will put your mind at ease when you try to sleep the night before the test.

For more information on the Cornell note-taking system, please check out my article on how to use the Cornell Note-Taking system at the link below:

How to Use the Cornell Note-Taking System

Reduce Caffeine Intake the Day Before the Exam

This assertion may run counter to what you usually do. It indeed ran counter to the way I used to operate the night before an exam. Typically the night before the exam, I would be cramming as much information into my brain as possible, and caffeine was the fuel that kept me going throughout the night. However, this worked against me when I tried to sleep. The result would be tossing and turning while arriving at my exam tired and not at my best.

As referenced earlier, if you have prepared by studying consistently throughout the interval between your classes and exam, the pressure to cram will decrease as you will be ready days before the exam. Therefore you will not need to go over caffeinate yourself to stay up all night because you won’t need to stay up all night in the first place. Instead, you’ll be able to sleep a reasonable amount of time and arrived at your exam fully rested and ready to take on the world.

I wrote an article on how to use coffee to study that also applies to other caffeinated drinks, what you can check out at the link below:

Should I Drink Coffee While Studying?

Stay Away from Sugary Foods and Drinks

We all love sugary stuff. I know I do. One of the challenges that sugary foods provide is the sugar high, which we all love, follows eventually with the sugar crash, which we all dread. Loading up and sugary foods the day before your exam increases the likelihood that you will have a harder time falling asleep due to the sugar high as well as feeling poor the next day due to the sugar crash. The easiest thing to do is to avoid sugary foods the day before the exam. 

You may find it surprising when you should eat relative to when you study. I wrote an article on whether it’s best to study before or after eating, which you can find at the link below:

Should I Study Before or After Eating

Join a Study Group

This one goes back to the idea of being prepared before the eve of the exam. Study groups are a fantastic way to prepare for a test. Study groups, if you are an active participant and are in a good group, act as a learning multiplier. The reason is that you gained several advantages over studying by yourself. For one, you have a pool of notes that you can look at versus just your notes. I know that many times I would miss an essential nuance or aspect of a concept that another student may have captured eloquently. Having the ability to review multiple student’s notes allows the benefit of more extensive collection information from a variety of perspectives.

Study groups also offer the ability to quiz each other and hear questions that others have come up with that you may not have come up with on your own that further your understanding of the content.

You might be thinking to yourself, how does this relate to being able to sleep the night before the exam? The answer is that by being prepared and knowing that you are ready for the exam, much of the stress and uncertainty of the impending exam goes away. This level of preparedness will clear your head of any worry. It allows you to rest and relax and is more conducive to sleep.

Set Up Your Final Review for the Morning Before Your Exam and then Stop Studying

I know this was going to be controversial. Most people want to cram as much as possible before the exam. However, cramming doesn’t work because there’s only so much information you can process at a given period. Additionally, cramming will exhaust you, and you will likely compensate by drinking loads of caffeine and eating sugary food. This overconsumption will lead you not to sleep well. Instead, set up a final review ahead of time to be in the morning the day before your exam. Make sure you set up this time at least a couple of days before the exam to ensure that you understand that you have to be ready early.

Why do this, you ask? By setting a deadline for when you have to be ready for your final review, it forces your mind to work backward to figure out all the steps you have to prepare for that last review. It also helps to reduce the likelihood of procrastination because you have this imminent deadline that you must meet: the final review. The final review should take no longer than 2 hours. It should be an actual review, covering material you’ve already reviewed several times before. Do not wait until the last minute to start learning the content you should have learned earlier. This procrastination is a recipe for failure and, in this case, a sleepless night.

If you use the note-taking and time management systems that I spoke about earlier or similar systems, you will be ready way before the final review day for your exam. Once you finish your last review, put your books away, and do something fun and relaxing. Don’t look at your content again until after your exam because you are ready. This will definitely help you sleep better the night before the exam.

Set Up a Sleep Schedule a Week Before the Exam

Part of getting to sleep is training your body to know when it is time to sleep. If you go to sleep at different times each night and wake up at different times each morning, you will likely find yourself at various stages of tired throughout the day. Our bodies crave consistency, and especially is true when it comes to our sleep schedule. The best way to ensure that you are ready to sleep is to create a sleep schedule so your body knows when it is time to sleep. If you do not want to do this all the time, that is okay. You’re a college student and your schedule will vary especially with your social calendar.

If this is the case, simply create a sleep schedule for the week before the exam. This interval will give your body enough time to get used to the sleep schedule so that, when the day before the exam occurs, your body will know what time to go to sleep if you follow some of the other steps around caffeine and avoiding sugary foods. Your body should be ready to fall asleep at the time you have been going to sleep throughout the week.

Reduce Screen Time the Day Before the Exam

Studies have shown that blue light that emanates from our devices, such as our smartphones tablets and computer screens, hurts our ability to go to sleep. Knowing this, it follows that you should limit or reduce the amount of screen time you have on a day before the exam, especially the night before the exam. Reducing your exposure to blue light will increase your likelihood of going to sleep. 

I know what you’re thinking. I am a college student. I need to be connected to my friends and family, and my phone is my lifeline to stay connected. Trust me when I tell you that you could avoid YouTube, Twitter, or whatever other social distraction you are currently addicted to and your life will be fine. To be clear, I am not judging you as I am addicted to many of the platforms that are out there and find myself continually struggling to pull myself away from my phone or iPad. However, this is your academic performance we’re talking about. It is more important to sleep and get proper rest than whatever tweets that celebrities are sending out or the latest cat video on YouTube.

Summary

Going to sleep before an exam is hard, no matter what you do. That is reality. However, we can increase the probability that we get good sleep by taking active, thoughtful steps towards creating an environment that maximizes our ability to sleep. This includes removing the anxiety and stress associated with exam-taking by being prepared ahead of time.

Monitoring what we put in our bodies the day before the exam also plays a significant role in the ability to go to sleep. Reducing caffeine intake and reducing or eliminating sugary food intake the day of the exam increases the likelihood that we will be able to fall asleep when the time comes.

Joining a study group allows us to prepare ourselves for the exam by leveraging the collective knowledge of others in preparation for the exam. Reducing our exposure to blue light generated by our devices also increases the likelihood of being able to sleep.

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