Around the last few weeks of the semester, sleep begins to resemble Buckbeak the hippogriff in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series: it looks amazing from a distance, but you aren’t sure if you’re worthy of its acknowledgement or loyal companionship, and it might also kill you if you aren’t careful.
Here are some tips for getting enough rest before and during finals week
1. You don’t sleep. Ever. Who are you kidding? You actually thought you had time to sleep?
2. Just kidding. (Sort of.)
3. Don’t leave everything until the last minute. (Try not to leave anything until the last minute during finals, because you will find you quickly run out of minutes.) Instead of cramming for however many hours you need to pass that Statistics final, spread out your studying earlier than you think you actually need to be studying. This seems like a ridiculous idea, but chances are that you’ll find yourself staring at the ceiling / television / dog rather than the textbook on a few of those nights, and you’ll have a buffer since you started studying early, rather than freaking yourself out two days before the exam. Rather than leaving you pulling an all-nighter the day of the exam, this will allow you to actually go to bed at a decent (ish) hour.
4. Study on the weekends, rather than just Monday through Friday. As much as most students build a mental academic wall from Friday night to Sunday afternoon, studying even a little during weekends can free up your time later in the week (and give you time to devote to your favorite relationship: sleep). Maybe you don’t want to write your English analysis on a Saturday night, but finishing the readings between episodes of Stranger Things can leave you some extra time when you’d usually start looking over the pages on Tuesday. Nobody wants to write two articles and a column in two days, but doing preliminary research and contacting sources on a Friday gives you a space between that terrible deadline and your other fifty assignments.
5. Ditch (some of) the caffeine. Caffeine may be your friend now, but later it will stab you in the back and you will crash harder than me when I try to walk in high heels. Caffeine disrupts your sleep cycle – which is why so many people need it to stay awake — but it also makes it more difficult to sleep later. Yes, it may feel like you need it when you have a lab report, two papers and a project due even before finals week. But overdo it, and you’ll pay the price by being too jittery to concentrate on your finals, much less sleep. Instead of buying your fifth caffeine-infused chocolate bar or straight-up munching coffee beans, try to moderate how much caffeine you’re taking in and try not to reach for your eighth cup of coffee. You are not the great French writer Honoré de Balzac, and with fifty cups of coffee in your system, you will not have time to create works of great art before the caffeine poisoning kills you.
6. Say no to unnecessary things. (If you learn how to do this, please come teach me.) Despite the best of well-rested intentions, events, club meetings, projects, late nights out and end-of-year activities seem to pile up near finals week, inevitably within a few days (if not hours) of your most stressful academic event. Unless it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity or you will never see your favorite people again afterwards, you can say no to the party / concert / club meeting that would suck away the brief remainder of your “free time.” You can skip one or two activities and the world will not crumble. You can say no without feeling too much guilt—and then you have time to take at least a small nap.
Even with planning out your time, getting enough rest during finals week can be tricky. Short of studying by osmosis with a textbook under your pillow, balancing is a delicate process. Don’t sacrifice sleep for studying, or studying for sleep.