Survey shows study stress can ruin a good night’s sleep

New research highlights the importance of a healthy bedtime routine for HSC students. Linda Doherty reports.

Two girls laughing in front of a sign Two girls laughing in front of a sign
Image: Year 12 students Beatrice Jusuf, left, and Prisha Aravindan at the launch of ReachOut’s research on study stress.

Study stress is keeping HSC students awake at night, potentially affecting their mental health and wellbeing.

Research by youth mental health organisation ReachOut found that more than 50 per cent of students surveyed were having trouble sleeping as a direct result of study stress.

ReachOut director of service Jackie Hallan said with the HSC exams approaching it was timely to remind students to take a proactive approach to getting a good night’s sleep.

“Sleep, in particular, can be an important indicator of how the stress associated with Year 12 might be impacting a student’s wellbeing and mental health,” she said.

ReachOut has released new supports and advice to help students get a good night’s sleep and information and tips for parents and carers.

“Without a proper night’s sleep, it may become even harder for Year 12 students to deal with stress and challenges,” Ms Hallan said.

“Staying up late cramming before an exam can be well intentioned but it can have the opposite effect on exam results.”

The ReachOut survey of more than 1,000 young people aged 16 to 25 found that of the students who said their sleep was affected by study stress, 65 per cent reported sleeping less, 59 per cent had difficulty waking up and 57 per cent said they were staying up late to study.

Year 12 Girraween High School student Prisha Aravindan said her family and GP helped her focus on her physical health so she could keep her stress levels “at a healthy level”.

“I’m a person who struggles to maintain a ‘normal’ sleep routine and this year I found myself oversleeping a lot, napping, and generally feeling very tired,” she said.

“I have a really supportive family who took me to my local GP to talk about what was going on for me. It was great to have an open conversation about study stress, healthy sleep routines and the importance of nutrition.

“While I’m feeling nervous about my final exams, I’m also looking forward to completing my final year of school and moving on to new challenges like an internship so that I can explore what path I would like to take in the future.”

In the ReachOut survey conducted in August, 88 per cent of students said they had felt stressed about study at some time in the previous 12 months – and 55 per cent said they felt extremely or very stressed about study in the previous two weeks.

The students’ most common thoughts about the causes of study stress were “not being able to live the life they had planned for themselves” and “worry about how they will compare to other students”.

Beatrice Jusuf, also in Year 12 at Girraween High School, said she learned this year she had to reprioritise her life because “you can’t do everything” and keep up a demanding study schedule.

“Importantly, I didn’t give up all the things that I love but I did look at my priorities and scaled some things back. That had a big impact on both my mental health and my marks,” she said.

“Going into these final weeks of study before exams I have focused on planning my schedule to make sure I am dedicating enough time to each of my subjects and that I also have time to do some of the things I love.

“One of the hacks that really helps me is carving out just 10 minutes a day to do something that makes me happy like some exercise or a chat with a friend.”

Earlier this month Beatrice and Prisha each received a Minister’s Award for Excellence in Student Achievement at the 2023 NSW Minister’s and Secretary’s Awards for Excellence.

The awards are given to Year 12 students who demonstrate academic, sporting and/or cultural achievements, leadership skills and values such as integrity, excellence, respect, responsibility, care and fairness.

For more information and to access ReachOut advice and resources go to our Healthy HSC website.

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