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15 Body Hacks to Avoid Fatigue and Ace Finals Week

Learn how to use food, exercise, caffeine, and other tricks to boost brain power and reduce stress during exams.

Finals Week may seem to be synonymous with sleep deprivation and stress, but long nights and anxiety can unfairly torpedo your grade point average.

So to prepare for the studying marathon before you, we’ve found the top tips and tricks to keep your mind sharp and your body rested during finals—yes, it can be done!

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1. Plan a Mid-Morning Wake-Up Time

To make the most of your body’s circadian rhythm, try to plan on waking up at 9:30 a.m. and going to sleep at 1 a.m. if you’re in your twenties. Oxford sleep expert Paul Kelley reports that keeping this schedule helps you minimize the groggy time while your mind isn’t fully engaged.

2. Study Important Topics at Least One Night Before an Exam

Harness the power of REM sleep on your mind by scheduling important study sessions at least one night before the exam. The American Psychological Association found that people who slept for at least six hours between studying and testing improved their perceptual memory.

3. Never Cram All Night

You may think that an all-night cram session will lead to a better score, but scientific research shows that sleep deprivation reduces your brain’s ability to absorb new information by almost 40 percent. A better plan is to schedule at least six hours of sleep each night to make the best use of the time you do have.

4. Celebrate Finishing Studying With a Cup of Coffee

While you might be tempted to start a study session with a shot of caffeine, Scientific American reports that if you want to boost your long-term memory, you should drink coffee after studying. Students in the study performed better on a memory-based test when they had consumed caffeine after learning the day before.

5. Try a Quick Workout to Enhance Recall

During finals, don’t skip your daily exercise routine. Scientists know that exercise boosts brain health and research also indicates that exercising after a study session can also increase memory recall. So take the time each day to sweat it out at the gym, even if your conscience says you should stick to the library.

6. Take Fish Oil Capsules Every Day

You’ve probably heard about the benefits of fish oil for heart health, but there’s evidence that Omega-3 can help your brain, too. A study from the University of Pittsburgh found that students who took fish oil capsules regularly improved their working memory. Unfortunately, the research focused on students who supplemented for six months, so if you start now you probably won’t receive the full benefits until next semester. But thinking ahead can’t hurt!

7. Chomp on a Stick of Gum

Chewing gum while studying may help you remember chunks of information better, according to one study. If you also chew gum while taking the exam, it may increase your ability to remember even more.

8. Banish Anxiety by Writing About Your Test-Taking Worries

If test anxiety stalls your best studying efforts, try getting it out and writing about why you’re so anxious for 10 minutes prior to the exam. A University of Chicago study found that students who tried this tip improved their test scores by nearly one grade point.

9. Make Time for Exam Day Breakfast

Eating breakfast increases your ability to concentrate and recall important information. The BBC recommends a balanced meal that contains slow-release carbohydrates, protein and Omega-3 fatty acids for best results.

10. Plan a Snack Before Afternoon Exams

A small snack eaten about an hour before your exam can help your test performance. While some research indicates that any snack with some carbohydrates is fine, WebMD suggests eating something with complex carbohydrates and some protein to avoid blood sugar spikes.

11. Apply Rosemary Oil Before an Exam

Another stress-busting tip is to wear a small amount of rosemary essential oil before an exam to reduce test-taking anxiety. A small study from Florida Atlantic University found that students improved their scores when they used rosemary oil during their exams.

12. Meditate Before Study Sessions to Improve Focus

Having trouble focusing after your fourth study session of the day? George Mason University found that meditating before a lecture helped their students pass a quiz given after the lecture. The researchers theorized that this mindfulness helped the students focus and retain more information.

13. Take a Quick 20-Minute Walk Before Your Test

Going to cram up to the very last moment? The New York Times reports that you may want to spend those last 20 minutes walking instead. Research found that children who walked for only 20 minutes prior to an exam performed better.

14. Consider a Cup of Coffee Before An Exam

Too much caffeine can leave you jittery and unable to focus, but the equivalent of a double espresso could help your brain’s memory before the exam. A 2009 study published in Psychological Reports found that people performed better after taking 200 mg of caffeine 30 minutes before a memory task.

15. Try a 10-Minute Break Every Hour

Before you swear to stay glued to your calculus book for the next eight hours, know that regular breaks will better help your studying efforts. The MIT Center for Academic Excellence says that 50 minutes of studying with a 10 minute break is the best way to work your way through all of your study sessions.

Now that you know how to prep for study time and exams, it’s time to assemble your notes and get ready to rock your finals. Need a bit of extra help? Course Hero has everything from study guides to 24/7 tutoring to make sure you’ll get the grades you deserve!

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