Different Ways to Help Stay Awake in Class (Quick Tips)

Last Updated: 22 February 2024

Pushing through the night to study for that test or to finish an assignment seems heroic and focused but becomes a problem in the morning. You did well, but it is time for lectures, and you cannot help but fall asleep. So what do you do?

Sleep deprivation affects your productivity and functions both in and out of class. In fact, according to the Sleep Foundation, pulling an all-nighter can negatively affect you and make you sleep during the day. If you have classes that you cannot miss, you can do things like, taking a cold shower in the morning, drinking coffee, and taking naps between classes, among others, which we highlight in this article.

If you have a powerful urge to fall asleep in class, try these strategies.

1. Stand Up and Move

Movement is an energy booster. Even though this may be challenging while the class is in session, any movement will get your blood pumping. A 2018 research showed at least 10 minutes of walking outside can significantly boost your productivity and performance in class.

If the lecture is long and offers breaks, take that opportunity to walk around, jump, dance, etc. If there are no breaks, you can excuse yourself for two minutes, do some push-ups outside the classroom, and then get back in. If you don't want to go out, slowly move your head from side to side and twist sideways from your waist.

2. Sit Upright in Class

While getting comfortable in class is good, you will likely fall asleep if you are not careful. The right posture in class will promote concentration and learning. It will allow you to pay attention to what you are reading or being taught. Lying down is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), which is informally known as "rest and digest ."In contrast, an upright posture is linked to sympathetic nervous system activity, which commands various functions, including alertness.

A good posture is all about properly structuring your vertebrae on top of the other to ensure the body is relaxed and alert. A bad posture can lead to fatigue leading to you falling asleep. So ensure you follow the right sitting tips to avoid sleeping in class.

3.    Drink Coffee Before Class

Many people take caffeine to boost their energy and performance. Coffee is a psychoactive stimulant commonly used to promote wakefulness and prevent sleepiness as the day goes by.

When you consume any coffee drink, it is quickly absorbed by all body parts, including the brain. This stimulant then blocks the adenosine receptors in the brain responsible for sleep. Adenosine is produced in your waking hours and builds up the longer you are up. So the more it builds up, the sleepier you will be. Coffee can bind to these receptors because its molecular structure is similar to adenosine. Once it does this, it releases its classic effect, which is keeping you awake.

Caffeine also has a half-life of between 5-6 hours, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means you can take caffeine in the morning and be up and alert throughout the day.

4. Drink Water

You may be wondering, "Does water keep you awake?" Well, water accounts for up to 60% of your body mass. This water is distributed throughout your body from organs to cells, and it's not just plain water. It includes minerals to help your body function. This fluid keeps your blood flowing and will increase your energy by keeping your muscles organized. Research shows that water increases your red blood cell counts and oxygen levels. This increase in oxygen levels keeps you up and alert.

So make sure you carry a water bottle to class- if it's allowed to stay focused and hydrated as much as possible.

5. Chew Gum

If possible, chew gum during class. Chewing gum is an energy-boosting alternative, particularly for those who do not drink coffee. Studies show that chewing gum elevates alertness as it forces your brain to be active, especially after a night of sleep deprivation.

Chewing gum can also speed up your thinking capacity. Research published in the International Journal on Nutrition, Diet, and Nervous System revealed that a person's reaction time is higher when chewing gum. The research also shows that several brain parts are activated, including the one responsible for increasing blood flow.

6. Take a Shower in the Morning

Many of us jump into the showers early in the morning to wake up and smell fresh during the day. If you are doing this to stay fresh but still fall asleep in class, there could be a little secret you are missing.

If you take hot showers in the morning, the effects of it could be the cause of your sleepiness in class. This is because hot or warm showers relax you. It releases muscle tension, thus making you sleepy. Cold showers, on the other hand, wake you up because it sends an electrical impulse to your brain. This then jolts your body system to increase alertness and energy levels.

To be more effective, try switching between cold and hot showers.

7. Ask Questions

Don't just sit in class listening to your professor talk; ask questions. Asking questions about the topic or what you don't understand will keep your brain engaged, preventing you from falling asleep. You can also take notes or formulate questions of your own to ask after the lecture.

If your professor asks a question, raise your hand to answer it. If you have nothing to say, you can chat with the person seated next to you. It's hard to fall asleep in the middle of a conversation.

8. Try Different Art Therapy Techniques

Art therapy techniques are not only meant for artists; it's for anyone who wants to try a relaxing activity. There are various techniques you can try, for instance.

9. Doodle on Your Notebook

Any kind of movement can help you stay active. It doesn't have to be any major movement; you can grab your pen and let it draw anything on paper.

Drawing silly things in your notebook will take your mind off the need to sleep. But make sure you don't drift away and forget your class activities. If you are not sure what to draw, start with abstract shapes, and your brain will automatically take it from there.

Doodling is more than just a way to keep you awake. Harvard Health Publishing shows that it can also help you retain information, thus helping you learn better.

Other techniques you should try in class to prevent you from falling asleep include:

10. Use Essential Oils

Essential Oils are commonly used in Aromatherapy, a practice that has been around for years. Essential oils contain high amounts of extract from bark, flowers, roots, and seeds of plants for various therapeutic measures. These extracts are pressed to release compounds that are used to make therapeutic fragrances.

And, recently, science seems to agree with this. It shows that certain scents can boost your energy and keep you alert. Of course, this sounds counterintuitive because, for most of us, Aromatherapy is about soothing emotions. For instance, Spearmint and rosemary essential oils are mostly used for relieving nervous tension and stress. However, a 2016 study has shown that it can also be used for preventing fatigue and improving concentration.

There are various ways to use essential oils in your daily life to make them effective when you are feeling sluggish in class. So make sure you choose the right one.

11. Change Your Morning Routine

The same way a bedtime routine can help you fall asleep without much struggle is the same way a morning routine can keep you awake throughout the day. Having a solid morning routine will also keep you energized, lift your moods and boost productivity levels. Start by waking up at the same time every day, even when you don’t have class in the morning. Having a consistent schedule will make it easier to wake up at the right time every day.

Also, when you wake up, try to get some sunshine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bright light affects your circadian rhythm, thus causing you to be awake.

12. Eat Healthy

Food gives you energy, and sometimes just the mere act of munching on something can wade off sleep. However, not all foods are good for you. When you are trying to stay awake in class, try to avoid certain foods and drinks, such as alcohol, and fatty foods, as they can contribute to drowsiness. In contrast, others can keep you from falling asleep. Research by the National Sleep Foundation found out that foods like green tea, whole grain, chocolate, yogurt, Peanut butter, baby carrot, oatmeal, etc., can help you stay awake. Also, make sure the foods you eat are packed with essential vitamins like Vitamin B (B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, and B12), Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Iron Magnesium that can keep you awake.

In addition, try as much as possible to eat at least three healthy meals in a day whether you have a class in the morning or afternoon. But, ensure you don't eat heavy meals because they can cause you to fall asleep.

13. Practice Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is an exercise that is used to calm the mind and reduce stress in the body. This technique can also raise the oxygen levels in your blood, thus slowing your heart rate and improving circulation.

To take a deep breath, first, take a normal one, then inhale deeply through your nose to the belly and not the chest. You can do this exercise up to 10 times while seated at your desk.

14. Get Enough Sleep

If you have a habit of staying up late, then you will always fall asleep in class. Ensure you sleep for at least 8 hours every night. This will help you wake up feeling fresh and energized. If you are finding it hard to sleep, there are habits suggested by the Mayo Clinic that can encourage better sleep.

Keep in mind that getting adequate sleep will not only prevent you from falling asleep during the day but also contribute to your overall health and well-being, as per the CDC.

15. Take Naps Between Lectures

If you have lectures throughout the day, make sure you take naps between them. You would be surprised just how much a 5-30 minute nap can achieve. Napping can help reduce and possibly get rid of fatigue and give you a burst of energy. Research shows that taking a 26-minute nap, commonly known as a "NASA nap," can increase alertness by 54%.

In addition, taking regular naps can aid in memory and information retention. This is important, especially when studying for a test or working on a crucial project.

16. Try Acupressure

When you find yourself nodding off in class, try the Acupressure technique. Acupressure is a type of massage technique that involves applying pressure on specific parts of your body. This technique is used to relieve stress and body pains. Applying pressure to the right spots can significantly reduce sleepiness. These areas are:

You can apply pressure on these areas even when the lecturer is in class and when you fall asleep.

17. Take the Front Seat

Your sitting position in the class is likely to determine whether you fall asleep or not. For instance, sitting in the back will likely encourage you to fall asleep because of the idea that your instructor won't see you. On the other hand, sitting in the front will prevent you from sleeping because of the fear that you can be caught.

18. Relax

If you have many things going on in your mind, you are likely to use a lot of energy to process it all. This is exhausting and will likely cause you to sleep. Try our much as you can to relax using meditation techniques so that you do not fall asleep in class.

Final Word on Staying Awake in Class

As a student, you will likely struggle with sleeping in class at some point. This happens, especially if you are combining class with many other things such as night shifts, late-night exercises, parenting, etc. It could also be due to late-night studying routines, partying, or insomnia. The good thing is if you put the above tips into practice, you can ensure that you remain awake in class.

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