The Correlation between Sleep, Exercise, Diet and Exam Results

The Correlation between Sleep, Exercise, Diet and Exam Results

A healthy and well prepared brain is essential when learning anything. The last thing that most people show any concern for is a: healthy balanced lifestyle to keep their body and mind vitalised during a period of stress such as exam preparation.

Have you ever felt extremely tired during exam periods, outside the fact that you could be working 8-5 or raising a family? Other lifestyle factors could affect you which could be due to a lack of sleep, bad diet and lack of exercise, so here are some tips on how to counter this:

Proper sleep and study breaks during exams:

In order to learn and recall what you have learnt, you need to keep you mind refreshed. This means that you will need to regulate sleeping patterns leading up to exams and during exam time, so that the brain can function at an optimum level; for information check out the following LINK. The possible effects of not resting properly may be effective in the short term if this means you can cram for an exam, however this may impact your concentration and learning ability because the brain has not had a chance to rest and store information. After an exam you need to again catch up this sleep, consecutive ‘all nighters’ will lead to sleep deprivation, a lack of sleep and a lack of coherence as with most adults the brains needs upward of 6 hours of sleep to function properly.

Memory recall and concentration is improved when you have had a sufficient amount of sleep. Without this, the body and mind cannot focus steadily for a long expanse of time as it normally would. This means that for exam purposes that the lack of sleep will affect the ability to string together the information which has been recently crammed in with the hopes that it would help with making a passing grade. The opposite of this can often occur; because the mind needs time to recover from processing a high level of stimulants, staying up longer than what you normally would or should, can push the brain to the brink of functioning with the result that all the later hour studying can be unravelled when having to recover and organise that information during the actual exam. The key here is to maintain sleep patterns so that your brain can focus on the task in front of you during an exam and during study time especially when it comes to cognitive functions like recall, understanding and decision making

What about exercise?

It is a good idea to allow your brain what can be called a ‘breather’ this involves doing something other than either studying or sleeping. This allows the mind to rest and compartmentalise what you have learnt, so that in the next study session you feel refreshed and ready to keep learning. This can be done by taking short breaks and doing physical activities such going for a walk, cycle or swim. As little as 15 minutes of exercise a day can keep your mind refreshed and well prepared because it allows for the brain to take a breather and recuperate after a long study session meaning that this time does not revolve purely around focusing on studies and work. A repetitive cycle of study and work without breaks could make you feel sluggish and unable to focus again in successive days. According to certain studies1,studies2; exercise and activity outside of studying will not only allow your brain to rest and prepare for the next study session but it can also keep frustration that can build up whilst studying at bay.

But what about my diet?

Feeding into a low energy diet precipitates poor performance as the body is starved of the nutrition it requires to perform at its best. Indulging in sugary and caffeine rich foods and drinks rather than maintaining a balanced intake of healthy sugars and fats to keep you going can be devastating on the not only your body and mind but the actual exam result as well.

As with any other regular day, during an exam period the body needs to maintain stability in order to function at its optimum. This means that the go to snacks such as sweets, chips and energy drinks should be kept as a minimum as overindulgence could cause further stress to the body. It has been suggested that foods rich in healthy fats and oils and healthy sugars should be consumed instead to maintain this balance. Such healthy snacks includes oily fish, fresh fruit, nuts and legumes; the result being that the body does not experience a “sugar high” and a resulting “sugar crash” related to chemical laden foods such as chips and sweets.

The Short Of It

All in all it is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle which caters to your specific body chemistry wherever possible; especially during an exam session so as to maintain the healthy balance which the body and mind require in order to function at its optimum level. Any small step taken toward improving or maintaining your wellbeing during your exam session could have a positive effect on your exam results.


Robin Bryan