Posted by Julia Wasson

Sep 23, 2014 6:33:00 AM

Did you know that teenagers should be getting at least nine hours of sleep a night in order to function at their mental and physical best?

While the thought of nine hours of sleep seems really wonderful, the reality is that most students are getting only about half of that.

Teenagers require more sleep than adults do because their brains spend more time in the sleep cycles responsible for improving neural connections and for consolidating and creating links with memories. Because of this, getting the proper amount of sleep while preparing for the PSAT/SAT or ACT will help your student achieve his or her best possible PSAT/SAT or ACT scores.

Sleep plays an important role in the brain’s maintenance, too. While we sleep, the brain actively clears out all the “stuff” that has built up over the course of daily thinking. Look at it this way: Your kidneys remove waste from your blood, and sleep removes mental waste from your brain.

Lack of sleep leads to trouble focusing, anxiety symptoms, stomach discomfort, eye aches, and irritability — not exactly the ideal physical state for taking a college entrance exam.

With a proper night’s sleep, your student will be more capable of improving his or her PSAT/SAT or ACT scores. The following are tips to help your child get some solid sleep leading up to test day:

  • Ban electronics right before bed, because the light from glowing screens stimulates the brain and keeps your child awake.

  • Exercise during the day (but not right before bed) aids your student in falling asleep and staying asleep.

  • Dim the lights and lower the noise in your child’s bedroom. If household lights or noise distractions are unavoidable, use a white noise machine to drown out noise and a sleep mask to shield her eyes from brain-stimulating light.

  • Write down tasks that need to be remembered before going to bed. Doing so tells the brain these thoughts will be accessible when needed without having to dwell on them during sleep.

  • Use visualization or deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation to help deal with test anxiety. Or, if your child has trouble doing these exercises on her own, get her a relaxation CD to play while falling asleep.

Almost every student experiences some ACT and PSAT/SAT test anxiety, so it’s important that your child has effective strategies for approaching the test as well as strategies for getting the proper amount of sleep. Otherwise, the anxiety he is experiencing is bound to keep him awake, causing poor memory and increased nervousness.

By embracing the tips above, your child will go into the test feeling rested, confident and more in control of the knowledge gained from months of college test prep. The result of consistently getting a good night’s rest will be an overall improvement in test-taking skills, higher PSAT/SAT or ACT scores — and better grades.

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