During student life, there is an extremely strong culture of pulling an “all-nighter” during final exam week in order to cram for each exam. Despite popular belief among students, cramming the night before an exam does not necessarily help you perform better. In fact, it might be counterproductive and cause you to perform poorly in your exams.
Sleeping is a very natural and important function for our body to perform. When we sleep, our bodies process information, restore and create cells, and rejuvenate us to get through the next day. By compromising on sleep in order to cram, our bodies and brains become overworked, causing us to underperform on our exams.
Here are some ways that going to sleep before an exam can be more beneficial than cramming:
Students who are well rested after a good night’s sleep are more motivated, alert and attentive. In contrast, those students who give up sleep in order to cram for their exams are more tired, sluggish, and lack energy. So, sleep-deprived students may experience blurred memory, and it may feel like all the information they crammed for the night before gets jumbled up. This will negatively affect their ability to effectively attempt the exam. On the other hand, well-rested students will be better able to recall information and attempt the question.
When we go to sleep, then our brain undergoes a process known as memory consolidation. This means that our brain processes all the information learned throughout the day and stores it as long-term memories that can be recalled later. When students pull an all-nighter, then their brain does not get a chance to consolidate memories so the information that they crammed for can be difficult to recall. On the other hand, well-rested students will have a better chance at attempting questions correctly as their bodies have had a chance to store the information as memories.
Students who have pulled an all-nighter will be faced with a serious energy drop the night on the morning of the exam. This is because their bodies don’t have a chance to rest and restore energy. You may have experienced struggling to stay awake during an exam after spending the night cramming. On the other hand, well-rested students will have a greater source of energy and will be able to solve the exam questions faster and more effectively.
After a good night’s sleep, you are less likely to feel stressed about an exam. On the other hand, spending the entire night cramming will cause last-minute stress and information overload. Sleep-deprived students are hence more likely to underperform on their exam due to nerves and stress, while well-rested students will experience less stress related to an overload of last-minute information and straining of the brain. Cramming can negatively affect the brain’s ability to perform as it is not able to process such large amounts of information effectively at the last minute. On top of that, a lack of sleep will lead to increased irritability and nervousness, which are particularly bad during an exam situation.
Thus, it is clear that cramming at the last minute is a poor study practice. Not only is your brain unable to process all the information the night before the exam, but it will also suffer due to sleep deprivation. Keep in mind that the best way to study is by creating a healthy schedule prior to your exam, that gives you plenty of room for studying as well as sleeping.