To sleep or not to sleep, that is the question. Chronic tiredness during bar study can be more just than a minor annoyance. If not dealt with, you could be losing time, energy, and even confidence. If sleepiness is interfering with your study productivity, don’t just sleep on it. Examine all possible causes and experiment with various solutions.
First look to the simplest solution, your overall health. Your body is operating at a higher stress level right now and may need more sleep than normal. If you are averaging fewer than 7 hours of good quality sleep at night, consider restructuring your schedule.
Likewise, your diet dramatically influences your energy level. If you are not eating right, you body could simply be depleted. Like sleep, during high stress times your body needs better quality fuel. Try adding broccoli, zucchini, squash, asparagus, spinach or other vegetables to your daily diet and dramatically increase your water intake. Also, take a close look at your consumption of sugar when you study. The spike and drop in your blood sugar can, in itself, cause sleepiness.
Are you exercising regularly? Raising your heart rate several times a week will increase your energy level. If you notice you can’t seem to keep your eyes open, quit for an hour and take a brisk walk or go to the gym. Also consider exercising in the morning to wake up your body.
Hours upon hours of monotonous studying can bore even the healthiest person to sleep. Examine where and how you are studying. If the bed calls when you study at home, try other places. When I studied for the bar I could fall sound asleep on top of a book at home and at the library, so I studied in coffee shops with headphones and ambient music. Try different study environments and change it up, or try studying to different types of music or with other people.
Simple body movement will also help combat tiredness. Experiment during your breaks and find something you enjoy that invigorates you. Maybe stretch out or dance in your living room to Michael Jackson for 10 minutes.
Eating activates your digestion, which can keep your body active and prevent you from falling asleep. Keep healthy, non-sugary snacks with you, like nuts or trail mix, and snack when you feel tired. I ate sunflower seeds when I studied because de-shelling them one by one gave my body something to do and kept me alert.
Pay attention to the type of studying that makes tired and experiment with other ways. If reading material puts you to sleep, try doing something different with the material like quizzing yourself at the end of each section or making one note card per page. Try re-working your own outline, explaining the material out loud to your dog, or throwing a bouncy ball against the wall while you quiz yourself. Get creative and keep your body and mind fresh.
Sometimes tiredness is caused by something more subconscious. If you feel defeated, frustrated, overwhelmed or resentful about studying for the bar, especially if you are repeating the bar, your mind and body could be unconsciously fleeing through tiredness. When you feel unpleasant emotions, even if you do not notice them, your body’s natural reaction is to get away. This can manifest externally with procrastination or even tiredness.
To examine this closer, take a pen and paper. Think about the bar exam, and for five minutes write down every feeling and word that comes to mind associated with the bar exam. Notice if you get more stressed out, more tense, or more anxious or angry as you write. If a majority of your words and feelings are negative, these negative thoughts and feelings could be causing your tiredness.
Another possible energy factor is mental stamina. If you are spending mental energy taking care of someone else, working a stressful job, or managing other external problems in your life, you simply may be out of mental energy when you sit down to study. If this is the case, see if you can lighten your mental load.
The most important weapon against tiredness is your consciousness. The more you are conscious to what is causing you to get tired, the closer you can get to finding a solution. If you cannot pinpoint the problem, just try various solutions and see what works. Don’t be asleep at the wheel, take an active role in crafting your personal best study environment and you will be surprised by the results.
Want to learn more mental tools to rock the bar exam? Lauren Fire is the founder of the Mind Over Bar Course, an innovative course that focuses only on the mental challenges of the bar exam. The course teaches in-the-moment practices you can use to improve your study productivity instantly.