Depending on how close you are to your test center, you may need to wake up at 6 AM to take the February LSAT. Unless you are decidedly a "morning person," this could be a problem. Even if you do manage to fall asleep at a reasonable hour the day before (unlikely, unless you train for it), chronic sleep deprivation can profoundly affect how much you get out of your test prep, and adversely affect your performance on the test.
You need 7 - 8 hours of sleep every night from now on. As the NYTimes reports, "Some of the most insidious effects of too little sleep involve mental processes like learning, memory, judgment and problem-solving. During sleep, new learning and memory pathways become encoded in the brain, and adequate sleep is necessary for those pathways to work optimally. People who are well rested are better able to learn a task and more likely to remember what they learned." In one set of studies, soon to be published in The Journal of Neuroscience, scientists found that sleep disruption stresses the brain’s metabolism. The result is the degeneration of key neurons involved in alertness and proper cortical function, as well as a buildup of proteins associated with aging and neural degeneration. That doesn't bode well for someone taking the LSAT.
Unfortunately, the effects of sleep deprivation can last for awhile, and are not easy to fix: even if you manage to sleep for 8 hours the night before the test, prolonged periods of sleep disruption can impede your ability to concentrate, to read closely, and to analyze information creatively. So, here's some advice on how to avoid feeling like a zombie on February 8:
If you need to wake up at 6 AM on the day of the test, you need to be in bed by 10 - 10:30 PM. Maybe this is when you always go to bed, in which case you can disregard the rest of this post (and immediately check yourself into a nursing home). Now, let's say you typically wake up at 7 AM on weekdays, and go to sleep around midnight. If you continue doing this, you'll be running a sleep deficit of one hour, and potentially be underslept by 2 hours in the morning of February 8. Bad idea. The solution?
- Start going to bed (and waking up) 15 minutes earlier than usual every week from now on!
- Limit the amount of coffee you drink to 1 - 2 cups/day max.
- Exercise for 30 minutes every day.
By the end of January, you should be in the habit of going to bed no later than 10:30 PM. Your social life might suck (temporarily), but your score won't. Best of all, you'll get accustomed to this change gradually, so test day will feel like just another day. Which it is.
Photo: "Day 197 - Sleeping Baby" courtesy of Ken Wilcox.