Tips for Test Success (The Sleep Edition)

You’ve probably heard that you should sleep well before an exam, especially the ACT, SAT, or AP exams, but have you ever wondered why or how better sleep affects standardized testing success? Let’s take a look.


This is actually pretty simple. Science has proven repeatedly that better sleep leads to better quality of life in multiple ways. Proper sleep gives us better memory, a better mood, and better health. On top of that, it improves our performance in thinking ability and even athletic performance.

Of course, this performance improvement applies to testing. Sleep consolidates the memories of what you have learned and helps you make better decisions. Once quantified, the difference a good night’s sleep can make is startling. A study conducted in Belgium discovered that students who slept 7 hours a night in the days preceding the exam period scored a full 10% better than their peers. Although many students like to “cram” before their exams, swearing by all nighters, these studies actually prove that cramming is just as detrimental as sleeping is helpful.


Perhaps the most important discovery of recent sleep studies is that simply sleeping well the night before the exam isn’t enough. Students who only slept well the night before the exam didn’t see an increase in scores. Students who consistently slept well at least a week before their exam improved their scores. 

The key to higher scores is consistency in your sleep. Studies also showed that inconsistent amounts of sleep night to night negatively impacted test scores. That’s the academic way of saying you can’t “make up for” your poor sleep during the week by sleeping all weekend. The best approach is a solid 6-8 hours of sleep every night, all week long, with the same sleeping and waking times.

Tips and Tricks for a Better Sleep

  1. No caffeine in the 6 hours before you go to bed. 6 hours is the amount of time it takes your body to work through any caffeine you put into it (8 hours if you’re extra sensitive to it).

  2. Try out meditation (Guided Sleep Meditations can be found on Youtube and Spotify).

  3. Get out in the sunlight daily.

  4. Reduce blue light. Computer and phone screens mess up your circadian rhythms and therefore mess up your sleep. Check out our previous blog: “The Strain of Online Learning.”

  5. Exercise daily, but not too close to when you sleep or you’ll pump yourself up.

  6. Relax before bed with a sleepy time tea, especially chamomile or lavender.

Give it a shot! Maybe your sleep schedule is the last little thing preventing you from that goal you have in mind. Maybe extra sleep will push you past where you thought you could reach. The worst case scenario is a little more sleep, and who doesn’t love that? Make your days better with better nights.

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