October 3, 2017

Exam Fear, Sleeplessness During Exams


J asks: Whenever my exams are round the corner, I find I cannot sleep at nights. My family doctor has prescribed mild tranquilizers but these are of no help. What can I do?


Reader's Query

Response: Apparently, anxiety over your approaching exams robs you of your sleep. Tranquilizers can only artificially sedate your nerves. It is wiser to tackle the root of your insomnia problem: anxiety and stress.


A good night’s sleep is absolutely essential for a good memory and to recall whatever you have read easily and quickly. Spending sleepless nights before the exams can take a toll on your physical and mental abilities and not help you perform your best. So make some lifestyle changes and try some of these tips and measures to tackle your sleeplessness and tension.

Eat right
This one’s not just for insomniacs but for everyone. Make sure you have your dinner at least 2 hours before you go to bed. Do not eat heavy, greasy spicy food for dinner. It will take a lot of time for your stomach to digest all that junk and you will have trouble falling asleep.

Do have a light dinner and include sedative foods like sweet potatoes, bananas, lettuce etc. You can also try sleep-inducing drinks such as milk or herbal teas before bedtime. Consume warm milk (preferably skimmed) before a few minutes before you go to sleep. Skimmed milk contains tryptophan and calcium which help you fall asleep easily. Teas such as chamomile, sage have a mild sedative effect and so having these before you hit the pillow will definitely help.
Exercise!
Boost your blood circulation by exercising. Half an hour at the gym or taking long walks between your study sessions will make you feel better and help you sleep peacefully. Yoga is one of the best exercises to combat anxiety and stress related insomnia. (Do read How Yoga Poses Help You Sleep Better.)  A qualified and competent yoga teacher will teach you specific yoga poses especially meant to resolve your sleeplessness problem and help overcome your anxiety, fear and stress.  However don’t overdo on exercise and see to it that you exercise 3-4 hours before you go to bed. Over-exercising and also exercising close to bedtime will prove to be counter-productive and prevent you from falling asleep easily and uninterruptedly.
Breathing exercises / pranayam
Do Anuloma Viloma Pranayam or alternate nostril breathing pranayam and Bhramari (Bumble bee) Pranayama will for 10-15 minutes twice a day. This will calm your nerves, relieve your stress and anxiety and help you get a sound sleep. 
Meditation
Meditate for 15-30 minutes every day. Read the posts Meditate to release tension and Meditation for Beginners.
Hot Foot bath Or Warm Shower
A hot foot bath is also a great way to relieve tension and fight insomnia. Alternatively you may try a warm shower before you go to bed.

Limit your use of technology at night
Stay away from your laptops, smartphones, TV’s and preferably even e-book readers like Kindle one or two hours before you go to sleep. If at all you must read, read a physical book. Even if you can’t fall asleep, lie on the bed and rest. Do not get up and study. It’s important to maintain the same bed timings every day.
Make deliberate attempts to unwind and relax at nights.
Try soothing music, a good book (a paperback and not a kindle) or calming visualizations, acupressure (this acupressure tip will help you fall asleep easily) or even a spot of meditation. Keep your room cool and dark. Use dark curtains to block any light. If your curtains are not doing the trick for you, use an eye mask / sleep mask. Do read about the benefits of a sleep mask. Also read about Aromatherapy sleep pillows and pillow mists.

Auto-Suggestion For Exam Fear / Phobia
Try to resolve your exam phobia with the help of auto-suggestion. Use positive affirmations and keep on repeating positive sentences every now and then. When you actually believe in an auto suggestion it becomes a confirmation. A few auto-suggestions that you might find useful for pondering over are as follows:
1.      I have all the necessary qualities, talents and skill.
2.      I am a good learner. I learn quickly and easily.


3.       I have perfect control over my mind and I can easily avoid TV, phone, computer games etc when I have to go and study.
4.      My mind is peaceful, alert and attentive when I study.  I can easily understand and comprehend whatever I study or read.
5.       I have a good memory and I can remember what I I have studied or read when I am writing my exam.
6.       Exams for me are an enjoyable opportunity to showcase how well I have studied.  
7.       I have done my best to prepare well for this exam and learnt everything thoroughly
8.       My mind will be clear and at its peak when I am in the examination hall and I will write the answer to each question clearly and accurately.

But for your self-affirmations and auto-suggestions to be effective you have to have will-power. You can try these affirmations when you are meditating for a better and positive experience.

Take the help of a psychotherapist
If you have tried every means including home-remedies and made healthy lifestyle changes but still find that you are unable to get rid of your exam phobia or anxiety then you may need to see a therapist.  Consult a psychotherapist who will help you control your anxiety and release tension. Once this is done you will be able to sleep soundly.

But do get help well before exams, for therapy takes time to show results.


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