Why you should be napping around exam time
There are 4 stages of sleep, ranging from snoozing at 1 to deep sleep at 4. They’re collectively called ‘slow wave sleep’. When you start sleeping you travel down from 1 to 4 and then back up to 1 again, but instead of 1 occurring, REM sleep occurs.
REM is known as ‘the kind of sleep in which you dream’, and you’re actually paralysed from the neck down to stop you acting out your dreams.
REM actually stands for Rapid eye movement, and the movements of your eyes beneath your eyelids have been found to match the events in the dream!
REM is essential for the consolidation(reconsidering) of your memories of the past days. It’s important for your emotional development and stability. This also may give it a role in the unlearning of memories that aren’t used and therefore maybe clarify your revision notes, on top of avoiding a mid-revision mental breakdown.
Quite surprisingly though it’s the slow wave sleep that is linked to ‘declarative memory’ (e.g. the memory you use to select a piece of knowledge and use it in an exam), which means you may be better off napping around exam time!
You have about 1 hour before you go into your first REM sleep zone in which you will find it very hard to wake up from, so always keep your naps below an hour!
Sam Fitzpatrick Final Year Medical Student, Cardiff University.
Milad Rouf Final Year Medical Student, Cardiff University.
Pocock et al. 2014, Human Physiology 4th Edition. Chapter 13, “Some Aspects of Higher Nervous Function.
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