Early Bird Catches the Worm: Why you should wake up at dawn to ace your exams

Posted on May 1 2015 - 1:55pm by McKenna Wierman

Finals Survival Guide:

I know what you’re probably thinking: Why would I wake up early for my exam after I’ve studied all night long for it?

If you remember last semester, I tried to stress the importance of NOT pulling an all-nighter and getting as much sleep as possible. And I stand by that.

What I’m saying now is to get to bed nice and early, so you wake up at sunrise and get motivated. Turns out how you start your morning before a big exam can be just as important as how you study for the test.

Here are some reasons why the snooze button is your worst enemy during finals week:

1) You’ll be way more likely to go to bed early: Sometimes you have to trick yourself into doing things you’d otherwise not want to do. By telling yourself “Hey, I’ve got to wake up at the crack of dawn tomorrow,” you’ll also be saying “So, maybe I won’t stay up until 1:45 a.m. at the library memorizing textbooks until I make it on the Ole Miss Campus Snapchat Story.” Taking an exam, no matter how much you study, is pretty stressful for everyone. By getting to bed early the night before, you’re taking the first step of preparing your brain for the actual exam.

2) You can eat: Food is fuel. I’m sure we all saw those TV ads growing up encouraging us to eat a balanced breakfast, and if you haven’t heard the science by now as to why breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, you have been living under a rock. Waking up early means allowing yourself the time to actually prepare this sacred meal. And I’m not talking about just filling a bowl with some kind of sugar-packed cereal or drowning tasteless flakes with half-gallon of milk, then shoveling them into your mouth at industrial speed as you demonically read through your notes one last time. I’m talking about putting on your bathrobe and shuffling into the kitchen to cook up some eggs, toast — bacon, if you have it.  For those of you who live in the dorms, oatmeal, fruit, yogurt and granola will survive a few nights in your mini-fridge. Sip -do not chug- your coffee.

3) You’ll actually wake up: While you sit down to enjoy the glorious breakfast you were able to prepare because you woke up oh-so-early, you’re also giving your brain the time it needs to actually wake up. Your brain works differently when you are asleep versus when you are awake, and it takes time to adjust settings. While it’s adjusting, you aren’t getting full use out of your noggin. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t take an exam while you were getting ready to go to sleep, so why would you take one after just waking up? Punching the snooze button a million times so you can stay in bed until the last possible second means taking your exam with a brain that isn’t at 100 percent. Waking up a few hours before you go gives you the time you need to get your bearings in the conscious realm.

4) You can wake your body up, too. Ever realize that you’re running late, jump out of bed, rush to get ready, then notice how fast your heart is beating while you’re rushing out the door? You’ve just gone from a state of total relaxation to stress-mode2000 in seconds. You need a little time to stretch out your muscles, roll your neck and get your blood flowing again. Taking a shower, stretching out or full-on going to the gym in the morning wakes your body up, which means during a test you won’t be a living stress ball. Not to mention, physical activity also gets oxygen up to your brain, which helps with step #3.

5) You can plan. So, you’ve decided to wake up early, you’ve made your breakfast and you’ve eaten. Now what? Do you just stare at the wall for a while, waiting for your brain to boot up? No! You plan your day! Having a plan means less stress – which means you can focus on taking a test instead of your racing heartbeat as you try to multitask. Set goals, map out your priorities for the day, decide what you can and cannot accomplish rather than just trying to wing it. Eliminating as much stress as possible from your day will only help you do well on your exams, I promise. Plan when you have time to eat and devise breaks between exams and study sessions.

Start your day off right. Mornings are important. You get up on the wrong side of the bed, and suddenly everything seems a little funky for the rest of the day. The beginning of your day can influence how you’re feeling when you’re working on something stressful, like an exam. So, be sure to get lots of rest the night before and eat brain-food for breakfast. Get your blood flowing, get your brain going and visualize all the things you are going to accomplish. Remember: you remember and recall information best when you are in a similar environment to where you learned it. Since it’s highly unlikely your study binges in the library all occurred moments after you rolled out of bed, do yourself a favor and take time to sit back and smell the coffee.

McKenna Wierman