Preparing for Exams: Secrets to Success

Effects of Exercise and Sleep on Learning and Memory

When I talk to stressed-out students about how to prepare for exams, their current note taking and revision techniques are not what I focus on. I ask them about their exercise and sleep patterns.

What? Sleep and exercise to study better? Sounds counter-productive - but it isn’t. So it turns out.

Sleep and exercise have a huge impact on how we learn, decode and retain information.  However, what happens to us all when we are faced with pressure of exams or deadlines? We tend to stay up late to cram for that assessment and in turn, forgo the morning jog because we are tired from the previous late night. 

Dr Wendy Suzuki, a neuroscientist, presented a TED talk on the benefits of exercise and learning.

Her research found that just a single workout not only boosts our mood (hooray), produces more brain cells (handy) and the positive learning effects on memory and attention, lasts for up to two hours post sweat session (trifecta!). Great news for our students who exercise in the morning or shoot a few hoops at lunchtime.

A big tick for exercise; now what about sleep?

A report from the Queensland Brain Institute found that deep sleep is key for forming and consolidating long-term memories. This is an essential step for you to remember all that algebra you learnt in Mathematics class. 

The research is clear and it is what we all know intuitively anyway so why don’t we prioritise exercise and sleep? The challenge for us all – what changes can we make to our daily routine to capture all this learning, memory and mood boosting goodness?

Rachael Turnbull
Head of 7-12 Curriculum - Students
St Peters Lutheran College