Photo of male wide awake in bed because he’s too stressed about grades to sleep

18 Things worth a try if you’re too stressed about grades to sleep

By Jason Wooden, PhD | April 25, 2022

When you’re too stressed about grades to sleep, it can make a bad situation worse.  Stress makes it harder to retain information and learn.  Poor sleep will make it harder to focus and think clearly.

Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to help you fall asleep – light reading, music, mediation, puzzles, card games, journaling, playing with a pet, a warm shower, and many other sleep-friendly activities.

Why stressing about grades is so bad for your sleep

So, you’re stressing over grades so much you’re losing sleep?

You should know you’re not the only one.

When surveyed, as many as 75% of high school students in the US said they’re often feeling stressed by schoolwork.  (Almost half of middle schoolers said the same.)

And a third of college students say that stress is negatively affecting their course work.

With so many stressed out students, it should be no surprise that it’s ruining sleep for you and so many others.

All the same, it’s still a total bummer.

Did you know that stress and anxiety are two of the biggest causes of insomnia?  It’s just hard to drift off to sleep when your mind is racing.

Occasional stress and anxiety is a normal thing in everyday life.  It’s when it keeps happening at the wrong time that you can really get in trouble with your sleep.

As you get more and more stressed out, your body may turn on the fight-or-flight response and pump out stress hormones designed to get you in a heightened state of arousal and prepare your muscles for action.

That’s why stress and anxiety is so bad at night – it’s makes it harder to fall asleep AND harder to stay asleep.

Unfortunately, sleep deprivation has become an epidemic among teens and college students.

That’s a whole lot of students stressed out AND sleeping poorly.

Now, here’s the good news…

Whether you’re a high schooler or college student, you should know that things don’t have to be this way.

Let’s take a look at what you’re really up against and some practical remedies that can help when you’re too stressed about grades to sleep.

As many as half of middle schoolers, 70% of high schoolers, and 60% of college students suffer from poor sleep.

How stressing too much and losing sleep over grades can actually make things worse

Okay, there’s way more going on than you might realize on those nights when you’re too stressed about grades to sleep.

First, let’s talk about what all that stress is doing to you and your body.

Did you know that excessive stress can affect the way the brain works?  Over time, it can change the way the brains processes and stores memories making harder to retain information and learn.

Besides being bad for the natural learning process, it’s sure to hurt your performance on tests too.

When you’re overstressed and anxious, you may perform poorly on a test even if you’re prepared.  That’s because panic can set in and you draw a blank as you look through the questions.

Photo of student too stressed about grades to sleep struggling with a test

Over ways stress can affect you include low energy, headaches, and depression.

Now, if you’re losing sleep that can make things even worse.

When you’re sleep-deprived, it’s harder to focus and think clearly.  That’s going to make it harder to study, do assignments, and affect your test performance.

Studies have found that US students who sleep six or fewer hours a night have a lower GPA than those who get eight or more.

Would you believe that being sleep-deprived has been found to have the same effect on the brain as being drunk?

And when you’re sleeping poorly you’re also more likely to feel down about things.

Stress all by itself can be bad enough.

Stress and poor sleep together can put you in double trouble.

So, when you’re too stressed about grades to sleep, it will really put you at a disadvantage and make a bad situation worse.

You just won’t be at your best when it comes to studying and test time.

18 Things worth a try if you’re too stressed about grades to sleep

Okay, now that you know what you’re up against, let’s look at what you can do about it.

It’s important to keep in mind that doing wrong thing when you’re struggling with sleep can come back to bite you. 

You may find it even harder to fall asleep and harder to stay asleep.

Anything you do should aid the transition to sleep.  That means you need to stay away from anything that will get you or your body riled up, activities it’s hard to stop doing, and anything that can later disturb your sleep.

 

Fortunately, there are plenty of things worth a try that can help you relax and get your sleep back on track:

photo of person too stressed about grades to sleep relaxing with a book

1) Light reading

Reading can take your mind off things, be sure to avoid those page turners that can keep you up too late.

photo of female listening to music

2) Light music

Listen to something relaxing, whether it’s classical or something else. Avoid those heart pumping tunes…

3) Light stretching

Try a little light yoga or some other gentle body stretching.

photo of a cup of warm milk

4) Enjoy a sleep friendly snack

How about a warm cup of milk or herbal tea?  You can also try foods with natural sleep-promoting nutrients such as cherries, mixed nuts, almonds, or sliced turkey.

 photo of female meditating because she’s too stressed about grades to sleep

5) Meditation

Try mindfulness meditation or some other mental practice.  It’s a great way to calm the mind and body.

Learn more:
3 Ways to Meditate for Better Sleep (Healthline.com)

6) Prayer

Like meditation, a little quiet evening prayer can occupy and calm the mind.

7) Try a relaxation exercise

Relaxation exercises are a great way to calm the mind and body so you can more easily transition into sleep.

There are plenty of techniques worth a try:
Visualization
Progressive muscle relaxation
Deep breathing

photo of warm shower which may help if you’re too stressed about grades to sleep

8) Take a relaxing bath or shower

For some, a leisurely soak in warm water does the trick.

Photo of person too stressed about grades to sleep working on a puzzle

9) Work on a puzzle

Puzzles are a great way to get your mind off of things.

photo of person playing cards because they’re too stressed about grades to sleep

10) Try a hand of solitaire

Like puzzles, a quick game can be the perfect card trick for your sleep.

cartoon drawing of male playing ball with dog

11) Play with a pet

What can beat chilling out with a pet?  Whether it’s watching your cat chase the red dot from a laser pointer or playing fetch with Rover, it’s a fun and relaxing way to take your mind off things.

Photo of fish tank

12) Watch your fish

Fish can be fun to watch as they can offer endless entertainment.  Fish tanks are also pretty relaxing which makes them a great way to unwind at the end of the day.

It’s no surprise you see them in the waiting rooms…

Photo of person playing a guitar because they’re too stressed about grades to sleep

13) Play a music instrument

Whether it’s a guitar or a piano, learning a new music instrument can be a fun way to unwind.

Photo of person doing mindless household chores because they’re too stressed about grades to sleep

14) Organize or clean

It’ll help get your mind off of things and you get the satisfaction of getting something done.

photo of person making a study list because they’re too stressed about grades to sleep

15) Make a To-Do list

Getting more organized can make things less overwhelming and help you unwind…

16) Journaling

Reflect and write down the events and thoughts from your day.

photo of person relaxing by the fireplace

17) Chill out by a fireplace

I’m don’t know what’s so relaxing about watching those flames, but it’s a time tested way to chill out and relax.

18) Watch the stars

If you’re room is setup so you can see the night sky from your bed, go for it!  Otherwise, grab a chair and find the perfect spot.

Beware of social media at night!

It’s hard to stop and will get you even more riled up

How to stop stressing out over your grades and sleep better

Okay, it’s pretty obvious that if you’re less stressed about grades it’ll make it easier for you to fall asleep at night.

And it’ll help you sleep better during the night if you’re less anxious about things,

Some of things that may help you worry less about grades are:

Getting organized – it’ll help keep things more manageable so that you’re less overwhelmed

Sticking to a study routine – you’ll feel better as you learn

Changing your focus – stop thinking about grades and focus on learning

Exercise – physical activity is a natural mood booster and a great way to take your mind off of things

Asking for help – you’re not on your own, so get help if you’re blocked on something

Don’t try to do too much – it’s just stress you out more, so learn how to say NO if you’ve got too much going on

Sources:

1. “50 Current Student Stress Statistics: 2021/2022 Data, Analysis & Predictions”, 2020, Research.com

2. “54 Student Stress Statistics 2021/2022 Data: Bullying, Mental Health & Gun Violence”, FinancesOnline

3. “Among teens, sleep deprivation an epidemic”, 2015, Stanford Medicine

4. Sleep problems in university students – an intervention. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2017; 13:1989–2001.

5. “How does stress affect learning?”, 2021, Simply Academy,

6. “Why Your Brain on Stress Fails to Learn Properly”, 2018, Psychology Today

7. “The Effects of Stress on College Students & Ways to Overcome it”, 2021, University of Arizona Global Campus

8. “Sleep Deprivation Has The Same Effect as Drinking Too Much, Says Study”, 2017, science alert

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