Home 9 Psychology 9 EXPLAINER: Your pre-exam sleep plan!

EXPLAINER: Your pre-exam sleep plan!

Oct 1, 2022

Year 12 final exams are looming for tens of thousands of young people across Australia.  At this point in the academic calendar, its the wellbeing and mindset tweaks that can make the difference to final marks – not just cramming more study into your brain.

My biggest exam prep tip for year 12 students is to take control of your sleep habits, now.

Sleep is a superpower, learn how to get the most out of it and it will reward you with improved memory and mood.

Here are three ways to do it:


Most major exams start at 9am.  Students should be training their circadian rhythm (aka their body clock) so that they are alert and awake, ready to smash a 2-3 hour exam at this time

If you are in a habit of studying and/or staying up late past midnight, waking at 10-11am and spending an hour scrolling your phone before getting up, you still have time to re-engineer this habit, if you do it stat!

This means to get a solid 8-9 hours of sleep (which is ideal) and to wake between 7-8am (so you can get ready and eat breakfast, ready for that 9am start), students need to be in bed asleep by 10pm-ish.

Yep, head hitting the pillow about 10pm.  You want to give yourself about 30 mins for the ‘onset of sleep’, so you can get at least 8 solid hours a night in the lead up to exams.

To help wake you up, try getting 10-20 minutes of daylight/sunshine over plying yourself with caffeine.  Bright light helps with the body clock reset, so once your alarm goes off – throw open the curtains.  Similarly, once dusk hits – darken your room and


You want to be heading into exams with a sleep surplus.

Feeling mentally well-rested might sound impossible just before the biggest assessment of your learning ever undertaken, but it’s possible when you balance a consistent study plan with movement and rest.

In the 3-4 nights before exams you want to pay special attention to getting enough sleep, and prioritising sleep over cramming more study into your brain.  Use positive visualisations to help you imagine great outcomes and affirmations to support you remember why you’re bothering to finish high school and what lies beyond year 12 (who knows exactly, but it’s an exciting new adventure!).


Yep, expect that the night before exams will suck.  You’ll be nervy and wired, anticipating the exam content and questions.  Go to bed early, ditch trying to cram anything more into your brain and practice those visualisation of the learning dribbling out your brain, down your arm and into your pen.

The reality is your sleep probably will be a bit shabby – BUT if you have followed the suggestions above, one night of broken sleep won’t really hurt.  It might feel a bit sucky but if you know you have stocked up on sleep and have a great mindset, you will have the juice in your batteries to get through.

Best of luck!  Go get ’em!

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