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Can't sleep before an exam? Why not try…

Getting a good sleep before an exam isn't always easy.

Dark haired man with glasses lying in bed on phone
Dark haired man with glasses lying in bed on phone

We have all been there - lying awake in bed the night before an important exam.

The anxiety of having to take a test and stressful revision periods can be enough to stop you from sleeping. Here are a few strategies you can try to help calm your nerves and improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.


Exercise is shown to improve sleep, and has also been linked to better concentration and focus - a perfect combination for acing your exams.

Engaging in regular physical activity can help reduce stress and anxiety, making it easier to drift off to sleep.

Aim to incorporate exercise into your daily routine but try to avoid vigorous workouts too close to bedtime, as they might leave you too energised to fall asleep. Opt for morning or early afternoon workouts to maximise the sleep benefits.


Mindfulness meditation and deep breathing exercises can often help to calm a racing mind. Spend a few minutes before bed practising relaxation techniques.

Find a quiet, comfortable spot, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Let go of any thoughts about the upcoming exam and allow yourself to be fully present in the moment. Meditation can reduce stress and promote relaxation, making it easier to transition into a peaceful sleep.

Turn off your devices 

Put your phone down! The blue light emitted by phones and laptops can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Being up late studying on the computer can have your brain feeling like it is still daytime and wanting to stay awake.

To improve your chances of falling asleep, create a bedtime routine that includes turning off electronic devices at least an hour before you plan to sleep.

Instead of scrolling through social media or watching videos, engage in activities like reading a book or taking a warm bath. This will send signals to your body that it is time for bed.

Sleep hygiene 

Setting up your bedroom for the perfect night’s sleep will not take too long! Turn off the overhead lights, turn the temperature down (a cool 17-19°Celsius is perfect), leave your phone in another room and crack open a book.

This comfortable setting can promote relaxation and make it easier to fall asleep.

Having caffeine later in the day is shown to decrease sleep (whether you notice it or not!) so it is best not to have any caffeine after 2pm.

Move to another room 

Tossing and turning all night is not going to get you to sleep any faster! If you have been staring at the ceiling for hours, it might be time to move to another room to distract yourself. Read on the couch, do some yoga, or listen to soothing music.

This change of scenery can help break the cycle of stress and anxiety, allowing you to return to bed feeling more relaxed and ready for sleep.

Avoid napping 

While a short power nap during the day can boost your alertness and focus, taking long naps, especially in the afternoon, can interfere with your ability to sleep at night.

If you are tempted to nap, opt for a brief nap of about 30 minutes in the earlier part of the day.

This can help rejuvenate you without disrupting your night time sleep schedule. However, avoid napping for extended periods or later in the day, as it can make it harder to fall asleep when you need to.

A good night’s sleep is vital for optimal cognitive function and performance, especially during exams. By taking steps to manage your anxiety and create a peaceful sleep environment, you can set yourself up for exam day success.