Nodding off in class is common for students of any age.
Late nights studying, long hours on a job, sitting in a warm classroom after a big lunch, a long evening class, or simply finding the teacher or subject matter a trifle boring all can contribute to classroom sleepiness.
For tips on how to stay awake in class or in any setting that requires your attention, consider the following strategies.
1. Get up and move
While this may not be easy or appropriate in the middle of a lecture, walking around, jogging in place, doing jumping jacks, or any activity that gets your blood pumping can juice up your energy and attention levels.
If you’re in a long lecture that has a break in the middle, use that time to get up from your seat and move your body. And if there’s no formal break, ask to use the restroom and get a little exercise on the way there and back.
You can also try some chair stretches like shoulder rolls, seated twist, and others.
2. Breathe some fresh air
If you’ve ever seen a new parent pushing a stroller on the sidewalk with an infant aboard, they may be doing more than simply getting out of the house for a few minutes. Being out in fresh air is invigorating.
And if you’re stuck in a classroom or other indoor setting, taking a few deep breaths can help deliver a little more oxygen to your system. That might be just what you need to stay awake and attentive.
3. A little caffeine
Downing a cup or two of coffee, tea, or other caffeinated beverage can be a simple but effective jolt to your senses.
But how much caffeine do you need to be alert? Well, it varies from person to person, in part, based on your sensitivity to this precious ingredient.
Mayo Clinic reports that about 400 milligrams of caffeine per day — about what you’d find in four cups of coffee — is usually plenty to keep a person awake and attentive.
Coffee can sometimes lead to higher spikes in energy and lower dips when the caffeine wears off, so caffeinated tea may have a somewhat milder, more consistent effect than coffee.
Coffee or teas without a lot of added sugar are also healthier choices than sweetened, high-caffeine energy drinks. A 16-ounce energy drink packs a lot of calories and
4. Drink plenty of water
Staying hydrated is a key strategy employed by long-haul truckers and others who have to put in long hours at tedious jobs.
Fluids help keep your blood flowing, which means your brain is getting plenty of oxygen and nutrients to keep working sharply in and outside of class.
Even becoming slightly dehydrated can cause fatigue, irritability, and other health problems. Having a water bottle with you in class — if it’s allowed — can make a big difference in keeping you hydrated and focused.
Being actively engaged, whether it’s taking notes or participating in a classroom discussion, can help keep you from snoozing during a lecture.
You may just need to occupy your mind more during class, so take good notes. They can be questions or comments on the lecture if there aren’t facts to jot down.
If the class allows for questions and discussions, be the student who raises a hand and keeps the conversation going.
6. Stick to a sleep schedule
One of the keys to getting a good night’s sleep, which in turn means less daytime sleepiness, is to follow a set schedule of bedtime and wake-up time.
By going to sleep at approximately the same time every day and waking up at the same time, you’re setting your body’s natural clock to know when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to be awake and learning.
Try to aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, though if you’re in your teens or 20s, you may need as many as 9 or 10 hours to become fully rested.
7. Get some morning light
Exposure to light, especially in the morning, is one of the simplest and cheapest ways to wake up your mind and body for the day ahead.
Taking a brisk walk in the morning can energize you for hours. If that’s not possible, open up your blinds as soon as you wake up to let the morning sunlight into your home.
Exposure to morning light helps you wake up faster, and perhaps more importantly, it sets your internal clock to be awake during the day and sleepy at night.
8. Change seats
Sitting in the back of a large — or even a small — lecture class can put you one step closer to an unplanned nap. It’s a little tougher to fall asleep if you’re in the front row, just a few feet from the teacher.
9. Have a mint
Mint has many health benefits. One of the most useful in class — apart from making your breath smell better — is how peppermint can help stimulate the hippocampus, which is a key part of the brain involved with alertness, memory, and other thinking skills.
If you’re upset about your grades, the news, or something that happened this morning, your brain expends a lot of energy. It’s going to wear you out and make your tired.
If you’re experiencing emotional exhaustion, problems can range from daytime sleepiness to poor sleep at night, as well as irritability, poor concentration, headaches, increased pessimism, and much more.
Using meditation and relaxation techniques to help cope with stress and anger may help restore your energy and give you a happier outlook. Even just few days of mindfulness meditation training can help boost your attention and thinking skills.
11. Dress for success
You may feel more like sitting up, paying attention, and working if you’re wearing business-like clothes as opposed to comfier outfits. It may keep you focused on the work in front of you.
If you struggle to stay awake in class once in a while, just remind yourself to get enough sleep on “school nights” and try the strategies above.
But if you’re consistently sleepy in class or other times during the day, tell a doctor. You may have a condition such as obstructive sleep apnea that’s keeping you from getting enough restorative sleep at night.
Otherwise, a warm cup of tea or coffee, or perhaps a little exercise or meditation may offer more benefits than just helping you keep up with your schoolwork.