5 Ways To Improve Your Memory, Focus, And Willpower Before A Presentation Or Exam

Aug 06, 2022

5 Ways to Improve Your Memory, Focus, and willpower before a presentation or exam

(Photo by Ethan Sees) 

Have you ever had trouble falling asleep before a big test or presentation? Or anything where you have to think about a lot of moving parts, information, or how you'll say something? 

You might think that staying up and going over it is the best way to remember. But that might actually cause the opposite reaction.

Why your best option is to just go to bed

Improved recall

During sleep our brains "hard-write" information that we have learned throughout the day. So, pulling an all-nighter to cram for a test is actually much less effective than you may think. Your ability to recall something that you have learned increases up to 40% after at least 7 hours of sleep.[95]

No brain fog

This is the feeling of "fuzziness" and disorientation that comes from lack of sleep. Have you ever had trouble finding the right words all day? That might be brain fog.

Getting enough sleep should prevent this. But if you struggle with it and you're getting good sleep or your condition worsens, contact your doctor. They will be able to ask questions and help you get to the bottom of it.

More willpower

Getting enough sleep can also help you to have the willpower to make good decisions. Things like choosing healthier food options and regularly exercising. If you struggle with low energy in the morning, try prepping a healthy breakfast the day before. Something like frittata muffins or pigs-in-a-blanket with breakfast sausages or vegan substitutes.

Finding quick, easy, and/or pre-prepared (by you) foods can help keep you energized. It can keep you ready to make more good decisions.

(Keep in mind that foods that you prepare will always be a healthier option to prepared foods you might buy.)

"I don't need to go to bed right now, I’m not tired."

We’ve all said this or something close. But you can do things to make sure that you’ll be tired when you need to be.

1. Break a sweat

If you know that you have something important coming up, try to schedule some exercise for the day before. Exercise can help you get to sleep easier. Even a long walk may make a big difference.

Not only does it make you physically tired, but your body tells your brain that it needs sleep. Most of the repair that happens after exercise happens at night.

2. Stop the jitters

Try avoiding caffeine intake in the later part of the day. Even if you don’t feel a strong effect from it, it still affects your sleep quality. Caffeine blocks sleep-inducing chemicals, which is why we use it to stay alert during the day.

Cut out caffeine at least 6-8 hours before bed. This will give you the best possible chance to get a good night's sleep.

3. Food is fuel

Staying away from things like sugary, acidic, or spicy foods, and alcohol, can help you get a good night's sleep. Eating these foods before bed may lead to a spike in your blood pressure, reduced REM sleep, indigestion, and/or painful gas.

Keep a log of the foods you eat before bed and how you feel when you wake up. You may be surprised at what you find.

4. Rise and shine

Your body's sleep cycle, or "Circadian Rhythm," causes you to want to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. You can confuse this cycle by sleeping in or staying up late. Or by generally not following a regular sleep schedule. 

To get it back on track, it's much easier to set a regular wake-up time than to try to get to sleep at the same time every night. You have much more control over when you get up. So try setting a regular wake-up time, even days that you don't have your usual obligations.

5. Use the Sun

Natural and artificial light disrupts the brain's ability to produce melatonin. Which is a chemical that's important to the sleep cycle. But that works both ways, in that you can use sunlight or artificial light to wake up more fully. 

You may want to try turning off screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Lower the lights in your area, this simulates the sun going down and lets your brain know that it is time to go to bed.

When you wake up, if you have sunlight available, try to bring as much as you can into your space. If you don't have sunlight available, go to the brightest area you have.

Study well, sleep well, do well

As always, remember to be patient with yourself. Everyone's life is different. Changing your sleep schedule will take time and hard work. 

If you are a parent, do shift work, and/or are a night owl, this process may be a little different. But no matter your circumstances, just keep trying different methods and find what works best for you. Eventually you'll land on the way that works best for you.

Continue Your Journey