Insomnia before an exam? Normal, as long as…

For students, the difficulty in falling asleep before an important exam is absolutely normal. But if it persists, it is better not to underestimate it.

Do the exams never end? Fortunately, school ones yes, but they still represent one of the first sources of anxiety in young people, causing in some cases even insomnia.

Anxiety, in general, is in fact the most frequent cause of difficulty falling asleep, even in adults.

In students, in particular, it is a fairly frequent and absolutely normal problem, as confirmed by Luigi Ferini Strambi, director of the Sleep Medicine Center of the IRCCS San Raffaele Turro Hospital: “The single case is linked to an increase in anxiety levels and the practical feedback can be the difficulty in falling asleep. If then the student, unable to sleep, decides to start studying, he makes a mistake because in this way he keeps the wakefulness centers “alert”, thus making it even more difficult to fall asleep».

Many students also delude themselves that, with a great night “study”, they will have advantages, but this does not happen because one of the fundamental rules of memory consolidation is to “sleep on it” to wake up fresh in the morning.

“Another big mistake – adds the expert – is to go to bed early to wake up maybe at 3 or 4 in the morning to “review”. This is also not advisable: better a good duration of sleep (seven, eight hours) to keep the memory fresh».

Poor sleep hygiene

But what are the “symptoms” that indicate that there is something more than the normal fear of the exam?

“While once young subjects represented a small part of patients in our clinics – explains Ferini Strambi – currently they are 10%. Today, in fact, a “bad sleep hygiene” is increasing: just think of the fact that children are always “connected” to mobile phones, computers, television and so on. This factor leads young people to go to bed very late at night, going into sleep deprivation, with well-known consequences: memory loss, more fragile immune system, increased risk of high blood pressure, even diabetes. Clearly we are not talking about subjects who do not sleep a night, but to whom it happens continuously.

How to cure juvenile insomnia, even chronic?

As with all disorders and pathologies, prevention is the first cure. “First of all – says Ferini Strambi – you have to follow precise rules of sleep. The first is that after 22-22.30 it is better not to use mobile phones or other electronic devices. These instruments, in fact, emit a light that inhibits the synthesis of melatonin that helps in falling asleep. If the young person then lingers in front of the computer, then with even more intense lights, it will be even more difficult to fall asleep».

“Young people also tend to drink excessive doses of alcohol in the evening, hoping to facilitate falling asleep. But alcohol-induced sleep is known to be fragmented and not long-lasting. So it’s always better to do relaxing things before bedtime to learn how to turn off the waking centers.”

In the case of chronic disorder there is a “cognitive behavioral therapy” specific for sleep, which, Ferini Strambi specifies, “must be performed by a specialist who has deep knowledge of sleep. In some cases it may also be useful to use a drug, always under the doctor’s indication and for a short period.

Joycelyn Elders is the author and creator of EmpowerEssence, a health and wellness blog. Elders is a respected public health advocate and pediatrician dedicated to promoting general health and well-being.

The blog covers a wide range of topics related to health and wellness, with articles organized into several categories.

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