Math Exams

How to Maintain a Sleep Schedule and Manage Stress in Exams?


20 November 2020

Reading Time: 4 minutes


It is your child’s half-yearly exams and there is tension in the house – you are anxious and your child is stressed.

You are working hard with your kid revising the study material and the repetitions of the math formulae can be heard from the living room – loud and clear!

However, despite the hard yards that you and your child are putting in, nervous anxiety is palpable. 

Your child is making mistakes repeatedly and you are not sure if they would be able to perform well on the day of the exam.

At the same time, your child is feeling the heat and maybe silently blaming you for all the woes!

But amidst the stressful commotion which accompanies exams, are you as a parent forgetting something important? 

Are you checking the amount of sleep your child is getting before and during their exams and the quality of the sleep that they’re getting?

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Why does your child need adequate sleep?

Exams can easily take a toll on your child’s sleep pattern – throwing it off balance with late-night revisions and early morning practice sessions.

Just like revising and eating healthy constitutes an important part of your child’s exam preparation, sleep should not be ignored.

Contrary to previous beliefs, sleep is actually an active process. When your child is sleeping, their brains work to heal the body by producing essential hormones that are needed for repair and growth. 

On the other hand, acute sleep deprivation can cause tension-anxiety, mood disturbances, confusion, and physical/mental fatigue among children.

Girl stressed reading book depicting stress in exams for students

In a review study conducted by Marta Kopasz and her colleagues (Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center Freiburg), it was confirmed that sleep facilitates working memory as well as memory consolidation in children and adolescents. 

Performance in complex tasks involving higher brain functions declines more strongly after sleep deprivation than the performance in simple memory tasks.

Also, adequate sleep is crucial for learning, memory, and their final performance in exams.

Do you know of the architecture of your child’s sleep?

Your child will usually go through four stages of sleep: Non-REM Stages 1,2 and 3, and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage. 

And, what happens in Stage 1?

This is the lightest stage of sleep your child goes through. In this stage, even the slightest of movements can throw your child’s sleep off.

The muscles at this stage calm down, movement comes to a halt, there is a slow movement in the eyeballs while brain activity slows down. 

Your child’s body is falling asleep as they progress to the next stage of sleep.

What happens in Stage 2? 

In this stage, the slow movement of the eyeballs comes to a stop and the brain activity continues to slow down There is a change in your child’s body temperature as it falls down with the rate of their heartbeat. 

This stage is deeper than Stage 1, and general noise has less to no effect on your child’s sleep.

What happens in Stage 3?

This is considered to be the deepest stage of the three Non-REM sleep cycles.

The brain activity consists of slow and delta waves, while the movement comes to a complete halt. It is difficult to wake your child up from this stage of deep sleep.

This stage is also considered the restorative phase of sleep.

child in deep sleep in third Non-REM stage

What happens in the REM stage?

The REM stage, often known as the Rapid Eye Movement stage is the stage where your child’s dreams occur.

This is also the stage where your child’s brain recaps events that happened throughout the day and stores important information in the brain’s memory storehouses. 

Sleep in this stage is lighter as compared to the other stages and it is easy for the child to wake up to the slightest of noise. 

Often if your child is woken up during a night of REM sleep, they may look and feel angry, agitated, or groggy.

The connection between performance, memory, and sleep

The human mind is divided into two parts – Declarative and procedural memory.

Procedural knowledge comprises of memories of how to perform some skills or how to solve a problem (‘knowing how’).

These memories, which may pertain to the motor, visual, or even verbal domain, are usually unconsciously learned. 

Declarative memories usually refer to memories that are easily accessible to conscious recollection.

For your child to be able to form and use declarative memories, it is important that they get adequate sleep.

It is during your child’s sleep stages that they make memories and store information that they can later recall when the time comes.

If your child is trying to learn something new or revise before an important exam, they will actually perform better after getting some good sleep.

The secret to getting a good night’s sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is no rocket science. In fact, you can maintain sleep hygiene and simply switch some things in your immediate environment to ensure you and your child get the best sleep.

There are three key components of the physical environment that need to be considered in order for your child to get a good night’s sleep – light, noise, and temperature.

Proper lighting matters

Before bedtime, make sure your child is not exposed to light coming from electronics such as TV’s, electronic tablets, the light coming from nightlights, street lights, and hallway lighting.

These lights, especially the blue spectrum light from electronics, interferes with your child’s sleep pattern and can have a negative effect on their quality of sleep.

This can then lead to abrupt awakenings, loss of sleep, and an overall negative mood the morning after.

proper lighting for adequate sleep for child in exams

Keep it quiet

Even the most ambient of household noise can break your child’s sound sleep.

According to The WHO, the general noise levels should remain under 30 decibels when your child is about to get some shut-eye. However, normal conversations that can be heard at a range of 1 to 1.5 meters (approximately 3–5 feet) fall into a 60-decibel range.

If you feel that keeping the noise level low will be difficult, you can use sounds that are slightly louder than 30 decibels. 


Body temperature has an impact on the sleep center of the brain. It can influence whether the brain instructs your child to go to sleep or be awake.

It is recommended that you keep your child’s bedroom slightly cool to avoid core body temperature warming. 

Regulation of temperature is important – else, elevated core body temperature may interfere with your child’s physiological processes that regulate their internal body clock (circadian rhythms). 


From all the discussion in this article, you may have now understood how important sleep is for your child.

This may seem like a small thing but sleep can really help your child in their performances in each and every activity.

Just like our body needs rest after a workout session, our brain needs rest after a whole day of intense thinking in exams.

Not only for exams, but you should also try to maintain a good sleep schedule for your child throughout the year.

You can take note of all the tips in the last section and apply them to your best to ensure your child has a good sleep.

If your child is facing some specific problems while sleeping, you may want to visit a sleep specialist doctor.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What’s the best pre-bedtime ritual you should follow for your child?

  • Make sure your child is not in front of the computer screen or a mobile device for at least 60 mins before bedtime.
  • Keep relaxing activities such as reading a story or listening to gentle music apart from their usual bedtime routine.
  • Don’t give heavy snacks or too many fluids to your child before they hit the bed. You can, however, give them a light snack or some juice or milk before they sleep.

Why is sleep important during exams?

Sleep deprivation can cause tension-anxiety, mood disturbances, confusion, and physical/mental fatigue among children. This can hamper your child's performance in exams.

What are the different stages of sleep?

Your child will usually go through four stages of sleep: Non-REM Stages 1,2 and 3, and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage. Our dreams occur in the REM stage.

External References

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