Why you get tired after exams and what to do about it

Do you get tired after exams? I know I used to.

However much you try to fight it emotional and physical exhaustion after exams is real.

One reader wrote to me and said this:

How can I stop myself from becoming so emotionally and physically exhausted after every single exam? I had my first one today and nearly fell asleep afterwards, I've only just recovered from it almost 5 hours after it finished. This is okay today (although it feels rubbish) but on days when I have more than one exam, or on days where I have an exam on consecutive days and therefore need to be revising when I don't have an exam, I don't know how I'm going to cope.

In this post I'm going to give you a little bit of insight into why you get tired after exams and give you some hints and tips on how to cope with it.

Why you get tired after exams and what to do about it

Why you get tired after exams

When you really think about it it's not hard to understand why you get tired after exams.

1. The Stress of the Occasion

In response to the stress of taking an exam you'll have an adrenaline rush. When you come down from any adrenaline rush you usually feel tired. Your body and your mind have been hyper-stimulated by the fight or flight hormone and now it needs to recharge.

2. All your hard work

In the run up to the exam I bet you've been studying harder than you've ever studied in your life. You've kept going on will-power and determination and once the exam is over your body is saying ‘enough's enough – we're stopping for a rest now'.

3. The intensity of the exam itself

Exams are an intense and draining experience. I should think that when you're studying or revising you rarely sit, totally focused for longer than an hour. (If you do, you need to change your revision habits and build in breaks to keep you healthy and sane). In exams you could be sitting, 100% focused for up to three hours. You're not used to working at this level of intensity. You pour out everything you've learned over the past years, months and weeks in one intense session; your brain is working hard and your emotions are high because of the stress of the occasion. Of course you're exhausted when it's all over.

What to do about getting tired after exams

  1. The first thing to do is know yourself. If you know you get tired after exams, plan recovery time into your revision. If you've got day after day of exams, and sometimes two exams on the same day, you need a revision plan where most of your revision is done in advance. Then, you can just ‘top-up' your revision the night before each exam.
  2. Have a plan for how you're going to recuperate. Don't just try to force your body and brain to revise when it's screaming at you not to. Have a healthy lunch or snack, sit and watch you favourite programme for an hour and maybe get outside for a walk. Maybe you even have a nap. Then you can get back to work.
  3. Make sure you're sleeping well at night. Have a good bedtime routine that gives you time to wind-down and relax ready to go to sleep. That includes no computer, phone or tablet screens in the last hour before bed (they give off blue light which sends the wrong signals to your brain about going to sleep). Instead, have a hot bath, read a book or listen to some relaxing music.

It can be really frustrating being tired after exams because you can't get as much revision done as you'd like to. However, instead of fighting it you need to learn to manage it and work with it.

Question: Do you get emotionally and physically tired after exams? How do you cope with it? Leave your answers in the comments section below.

Do you need more help to get your target exam grades? Check out my Exam Success resources page for loads of helpful articles on all aspects of preparing for exams.

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