How to Help Your Kids Sleep Their Way to Exam Success

Sleeping well, regularly, can improve creativity, problem-solving and your kid’s exam results by as much as half a grade

The National Sleep Foundation recommends GCSE and A-Level students get about nine hours sleep a night. And at no time is this more critical than during exam season and after revision sessions. See, memories need to be consolidated within 24 hours of being formed – and your brain does this when you sleep. Of course, every child is different, but here are a few ideas on how to get your stressed exam-sitter to sleep before their exams. 

1. Stop them doing an all-nighter

Late night cramming sessions are counter-productive, so stop them from sacrificing a night’s sleep for extra revision – sleep will help them remember what they’ve already covered.

2. Help them create audio recordings of key topics

What you do before you go to sleep is what you remember best. So why not encourage them to listen to recordings of themselves talking through the most important revision notes?

3. Listen to pink noise

Help your exam-sitter unwind by suggesting they listen to pink noise as they drift asleep – according to Northwestern University, you can trick your brain into falling and staying in deep sleep with these gentle sounds. Pink noises, like the rush of a waterfall, can apparently boost your memory and your ability to sleep. Worth a shot during exam season? We think so.

4. Feed them two kiwis an hour before bed, for a month

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Too anxious to sleep? Taiwan Taipei Medical University said that people slept 13% longer when they ate two kiwis an hour before going to bed – sending them into a deeper sleep faster. It took 35% less time for them to fall asleep. Of course, that was just one small study – but isn’t it worth a shot? It’ll help them towards their five a day if not that A*.

5. Offer encouragement the night before

Resist the urge to give practical solutions to emotional, stress-induced problems – save the realistic advice until they’re in a better frame of mind to hear it. If they seem anxious before going to bed, remind them of their previous successes, help them see their exam as an opportunity rather than a threat and remind them that you’ll love and be proud of them no matter the result – because exam success or failure doesn’t define who they are.

Rather than promising a big reward or reminding them what’s at stake with their exams, ask how they’re doing and whether you can help in any way. Exam season is stressful for the entire family, including you parents, but giving them a listening ear before bedtime could help them sleep (and ultimately, perform) better.

6. Have them write their fears on paper

Acknowledging their exam woes could make them less scary and sleep come easier.

7. Spritz sleep-inducing essential oils around their bedroom

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A little bedtime aromatherapy could calm your stressed-out exam-sitter and help them sleep. Blow out a lavender scented candle, dab their pillow with lavender essential oils or stash a cotton pocket of dried lavender flowers and essential oils under their pillow. If you really want to treat them, why not give them fresh, lavender-scented bedding the night before their exam?

8. Send them out for a run

Not only can exercising for 30 minutes make you sleep deeper, encouraging them to get active outdoors in daylight will help regulate their body clocks – helping them sleep better, even during exam season.

9. Have a ‘no studying in bed’ rule

Curl up with a fun bedtime read, not a revision guide. Bed is for sleeping in only, because if it becomes associated with the stress and nerves of studying, it could be harder to relax and fall asleep in.

10. Stick to the usual bedtime routine

No need to bring bedtime forward on the eve of an exam, enjoy dinner at the same time (let them bring a study guide to the table if they want to) and send them off to bed as usual. As ever, keep away from the blue light emitting devices like phones and laptops an hour before heading to bed. And make sure their bedroom is dark and cool enough to sleep.

11. Inspire positive thoughts

Get them to calm their nerves by boosting their confidence the night before the big test – have your exam-sitter visualise the best possible outcome, imagining everything working out as planned with the best questions and the best results.