Before the holiday fun can begin, many students need to make it through the dreaded final exam period. According to experts at Baylor College of Medicine, putting the books and notes to the side for proper sleep and nutrition can be just as important as studying.
Studies have shown that sleep affects memory and learning and that a lack of sleep has a negative impact on things associated with learning, such as school performance in children. For teens and adolescents who persistently study late into the night and pull all-nighters to cram for an exam, it may be better to put the books down and hit the sack for a few hours to cement the knowledge into their brain, according to Dr. Philip Alapat, assistant professor of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine and program director of the Baylor College of Medicine Sleep Medicine Fellowship.
So how much sleep, on average, should you be getting? The National Sleep Foundation released these recommendations in 2015:
- Newborn (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
- Infant (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
- Toddler (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
- Preschooler (3-5 years): 10-13 hours
- School-aged child (6-13 years): 9-11 hours
- Teen (14-17 years): 8 -10 hours
- Young adult (18-25 years): 7-9 hours
- Adult (26-64 years): 7-9 hours
- Older adult (65+ years): 7-8 hours
Your diet also may be important for optimal academic performance.
“Your brain needs high-quality food,” said Roberta Anding, a registered dietitian with Baylor.
Make sure to have a source of protein with each meal as proteins help the timely release of carbohydrates in the body. Breakfasts should include a quality carbohydrate such as oatmeal or shredded wheat, combined with a protein such as eggs, yogurt or Canadian bacon. Another breakfast combination could include scrambled eggs, oatmeal and half of a grapefruit.
“Don’t forget that you need carbohydrates to fuel your brain, so don’t skip breakfast,” she said.
Anding suggests avoiding sugary snacks before exams – sugar on an empty stomach can cause a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar and make focus and concentration more difficult.
Also be sure to hydrate.
“We often lose our cue to drink when it’s cool outside, but making sure you are hydrated with water can improve your sense of well-being,” said Anding.