One of the most important parts of succeeding in the IB is often neglected by many people bent on making the grade: staying healthy. Although it might seem like you don't quite have the time to get enough sleep and exercise, they are both essential and in the long run might prove more fruitful in getting the results you want than some of the revision you put in!
First of all, sleep is incredibly important. Although the guideline amounts of 8-10 hours a night can be a bit unrealistic sometimes, in my experience you should always aim to have at least 6 hours of sleep. Students far too often forego sleep so that they can get some last-minute cramming just before a test, or finish an essay they left for a little too long. What I've found is that you'll always do much better by revising for 4 hours and sleeping for 8 than you will by revising for 8 hours and sleeping for 4! Your memory will be better and you'll be more alert and mentally proficient, and that's more likely to get you marks than a few facts you learnt at 3am and can't quite piece together. When it comes to late-night essays, you'll find they're usually far from being your best pieces of work, and you can often do better by working the following morning, if at all possible. Besides, you're much better off planning in advance for tests and work you have to give in: usually it's possible to avoid being up late altogether with a little foresight and some timetabling. Once you've gotten into a regular work pattern and you start doing work the day you're given it, not the day before it's due, it'll be much easier to get to sleep by 10 or 11, and you'll feel great for it!
In order to help you sleep adequate amounts, it's important to cut down on a few things, too! First off is coffee and energy drinks. Although you can get a stimulating buzz from these drinks, they can be rather unhealthy and throw off your sleep schedule, making it hard to stick to a timetabled plan. Try to limit these to just 1 or 2 drinks a day maximum, and have them in the morning or early afternoon – not any later, as they'll start interfering with your sleep. Next on the list is all forms of screens. It turns out that the blue light radiated by TVs, computer screens, smart-phones and tablets can adversely effect your sleep cycle. For that reason it's best to avoid screens for at least half an hour before you intend to go to sleep – instead, use this time to do some reading or writing (the traditional way!) It's the perfect time to relax by reading a book, or to read over any notes you took during the day to refresh your memory. One thing that can be very useful to do just before bed is to take five minutes to think about anything that might be worrying you, and writing it down. If you make a small list of things you'll have to do in the next few days, people or things you might be upset about and other concerns you're having, you'll find it much easier to fall asleep as rather than having these thoughts swimming around in your brain, you'll have put them on paper to deal with later.
However, there's one last part of the puzzle in order to get good sleep and stay healthy: exercise. Whilst it might seem that you don't have time amongst all your classes and work to stay in shape, it's important to squeeze some in wherever possible. Try to schedule at least two one-hour slots in the week to do something active, and look for opportunities to get exercise wherever you can: just small steps like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking or cycling to school if it's close enough can have a great impact. The benefits of doing something active regularly might take you by surprise: improved sleep, better emotional health, improved mental clarity, the list goes on… Get involved with a sport at school, or choose an activity to do by yourself if you wish, and pay attention to see how it can help you. More importantly, the next time you're about to open up Facebook for “just five minutes” or watch another episode of a TV show, try going for a run or working out at home – you'll feel much better for it, and you might find that it helps you to break out of an unproductive cycle.
When it boils down to it, there's quite a simple formula to stay healthy: get enough sleep, eat enough food, and do enough exercise, whilst cutting out whatever will get in the way of achieving this. Although it's far easier said than done, protect these three essential pillars of health, and you'll find your school work will improve – probably more than you imagine!