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7 Tips for Staying Healthy During Exams

Friday, February 22, 2019

7 Tips for Staying Healthy During Exams

After weeks of intense studying, cramming as much information as you can into your brain and wishing you kept up with your reading throughout term time, you approach your first exam and feel a sense of relief after finishing it. But that's just the start. You're back to the library right away, without even having the chance to pat yourself on the back, to study for your next exam.

After rinsing and repeating, you finally finish your last exam of the term, and you're FINALLY ready to celebrate and treat yourself.

BUT, you suddenly feel some soreness, a cough or two and now you're incredibly tired. Then it hits you, and you realise that you're very sick.

If this has ever happened to you, you're not alone. Thousands of students get sick right after exam season and are left wondering why? Although there isn't a definitive explanation for this, there have been a few theories that could explain why exactly you get sick once exams are over.

3 Theories: Why You Get Sick After Exams

Theory #1: Stress and the Let-Down Effect

Cassey Affleck | Stressed GIF

According to Marc Shoen, a psychologist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at UCLA, the Let-Down Effect is when an illness or flare-up of a chronic condition occurs after a stressful period ends.

Shoen says that once stress dies down, there's "a down-regulation of the immune system: a suppression of the immune response, [as a reaction] to the easing of stress" - meaning that when the immune response lowers its guard, the chance of getting sick increases.

One study found that panic attacks occur more frequently on weekends than weekdays, suggesting that people can get stressed and overwhelmed at work/school during the week and feel the after-effects once the stressful period (aka weekdays) ends.

Theory #2: Lack of Sleep

Head in hands | Fed up | Studying

Whether you prepared well in advance or not, it is likely that the amount of sleep you had before your exams decreased, especially if you left everything to the last minute (which is very common).

A study was held where 153 people volunteered to receive a dose of rhinovirus (one of the main causes of the common cold). The result was that people with less than seven hours of sleep were three times more likely to get a cold than people with more than eight hours of sleep.

If you're only sleeping a few hours a night during the time leading to your exams, this could be why you fall sick that much easier.

Theory #3: Travel

Passport | Travel

Since many students live away from home and therefore visit family during the holidays (i.e. after exams), they're amongst other students returning from exams that run the same high risk of getting sick.

When assembling a group of individuals whose immunity isn't at its strongest, you can understand why it would be so easy to fall ill.

One thing that all these theories have in common is a drastic change in circumstances. There's a change in stress levels, amount of sleep and contact with other people. According to ScienceLine, this drastic change is the leading cause of sickness, as the immune system "relies on the coordination of many different types of cells...and physiological conditions that alter the balance between the immune branches or the function of individual immune cells may have detrimental health effects".

But don't worry too much! There are many ways to keep healthy during exams so that you don’t fall ill – we’ve got you covered.

How to Stay Healthy During Exam Season

#1: Avoid Excess Caffeine

No caffeine GIF

It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that pounding back numerous cups of coffee will help you, but in the long run, you increase your chances of crashing, which makes you feel more tired and raises your chances of getting sick! You can see how this is counter-intuitive.

#2: Take Breaks

Kick back and relax

One of the most inefficient things you can do while revising is to force yourself to study for ten hours straight with no breaks. Not only does your health suffer, but it is also much harder to soak in the information you're reading (which is the most important thing - don't forget!).

#3: Catch Plenty of Z's

Cat nap

Although it's easier said than done, make sure you're giving yourself a good amount of sleep every night - even if it’s the night before your exam. The less sleep you get, the more likely you are to get ill during or even after your exams!

#4: Eat Your Greens!

Healthy balanced diet

While junk food can be incredibly tempting as a quick snack during exams, it doesn't help you to stay focused and alert while studying. It's tough (we know), but even substituting one unhealthy snack for fruit or vegetables can really help with your concentration and energy.

A study by Marcos et al. found that immune suppression (lowered defence of the immune system) did not occur in students that ate food containing lactobacillus bacteria (found in yoghurt). So be sure to stock up on yoghurt for this upcoming exam season!

#5 Stay Hydrated

Drinking water

It's shocking how many health benefits water can bring – this is definitely a necessity during exam season, especially if you're turning to alternatives like caffeine or pop. Staying hydrated can prevent headaches, reduce soreness and a multitude of other things, so make sure you have a water bottle beside you at all times!

#6 Exercise!


It's easy to make the excuse that you have no time to exercise during this hectic period, but it's one of the most impactful things you can do for your health.

Exercising, whether it's going to the gym or even taking a brisk walk, will help your brain's blood flow and re-energise you if you're struggling to concentrate.

#7 Pace Yourself

Deep breath GIF

If you control the amount of stress you experience by taking breaks, exercising, eating healthy and sleeping, it will be much harder for you to get sick. Ensuring your body is not revved up 24/7 by taking even the smallest breaks, or getting that extra 30 minutes of sleep, can go a very long way.


Without a doubt, exam season is an incredibly stressful time for most students, but sometimes you just need to take a step back and realise that it's not the end of the world, and you can get through this!

One thing to add is that this advice isn't limited to students. These tips can apply to anyone involved with exam season, ESPECIALLY teachers and teaching assistants. From creating the exam material to making sure all the processes are in place, and even marking papers, teachers are at risk of falling ill from the stress exam season brings. So, to any teachers out there, keep these tips in mind!

Remember to revisit this guide when doing your exams, and you’ll be sure to minimise the stress and negative health impacts this season so frequently brings (you don’t want to miss out on your post-exam treats!).

Since you now know how to stay healthy during exams, all you need to learn is how to ACE your exams. You're in luck because here are 25 Effective Exam Writing Techniques to help you get through exam season!

About the Writer

OneClass started out as a mission to put students first. Every day, OneClass saves thousands of students hours from filtering through unrelated and outdated content from the web. Since 2010, our ultimate goal has been to deliver study resources that are immediately useful and relevant to any knowledge seeker on our platform.

Read the original article by OneClass and check out their brilliant website!

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