Unless lectures and discussions involve jaw-dropping performances by your professors and classmates, you’re unlikely to remain completely awake, alert, and focused while in class. But we all know that falling asleep in class is a mistake best avoided. Apart from inviting the ire of your professor, falling asleep can also disrupt your academic performance as it causes you to miss out on learning. Unfortunately, feeling drowsy in the classroom is about as common as falling asleep in your own bed. So how do you avoid this problem? Solutions are surprisingly easy. With just a little preparation and mindfulness with how you go about your daily schedule, you can minimize the chances of snoozing while Professor Smith there is showing the class how to solve that difficult equation. Here are some of the top tips for staying awake in class.
Get enough sleep
The most common cause of feeling sleepy in class is not getting enough sleep the night before. Studies show that most college students usually sleep around 6 hours a night. However, research also shows that students should get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep for optimal rest. So if lack of sleep is the main cause of the problem, then the obvious solution is to get enough sleep the night before. But being a student is not easy, and heavy course loads are one reason why students are among the most sleep-deprived people. The answer to getting enough sleep, therefore, is better time management and avoid procrastinating. Strategies such as dividing your tasks into units, setting up realistic priorities, and remaining disciplined can help you save time that you can use for a longer, fuller sleep. Getting enough sleep, in turn, should help you in staying awake in the classroom.
Maintain a healthy sleeping pattern
While getting enough sleep is one of the ways to stay awake in class, this is just one part of the solution. The other part lies in maintaining a healthy sleeping pattern. Sleeping pattern is associated with the quality of sleep. People with irregular sleeping patterns tend to have lower-quality sleep than those who follow regular patterns. This leads to a feeling of drowsiness or exhaustion even while awake. To maximize your sleep, try to go to bed at night and wake up in the morning at the same time every day. A regular sleeping pattern will enhance the quality of your rest, thus enabling you to remain awake in class.
Avoid heavy meals before class
Learning how to stay awake in class is incomplete without mentioning the importance of avoiding heavy meals. It can be tempting to eat a lot in between classes, especially if you feel like you need to fuel up for the day. But eating too much can actually impact your level of alertness. When you eat a heavy meal, your body directs a significant amount of its energy to digest food. This is the main reason why you feel drowsy after eating a heavy meal. Avoid eating too much to stay awake in class. You don’t have to skip meals or eat less than your body’s nutritional requirements; rather, aim for having a balanced meal. Getting a balanced meal will be hard for a college student, especially if you're stuck with college dorm meals, but it is attainable. This will help you stay healthy without compromising your level of alertness while in the classroom.
End a hot shower with a blast of a cold shower
The appeal of a warm shower is a strong one. Apart from being more relaxing than a cold shower, a warm shower seems the more obvious choice when you’re hardly awake in the morning. But finishing your shower with a blast of cold water is better if you have a full day of classes ahead. Showering with hot water opens up your blood vessels and improves the delivery of blood to your vital organs, thus sort of prepping them for the day. Ending your bath with a cold shower, however, takes the effect of hot shower further. Apart from shaking you out of a stupor, cold water constricts your blood vessels, which is the same effect that the fight or flight response has on your body.
Get your caffeine fix
Another way to avoid falling asleep in class is by getting your caffeine fix. Every day, millions of people rely on coffee to jumpstart their day. Getting your dose of caffeine before class should keep you up. But more than just enhancing your alertness, coffee has other health benefits. For instance, coffee has identified as a good source of antioxidants that help in flushing out toxins from your body. But if you’re not a fan of coffee, you can opt for tea or dark chocolate, which are both caffeinated and rich in antioxidants.
Sit up straight
When you’re aware or not, your body’s posture actually has a strong influence over your mood. Extensive studies have shown that how you feel is directly linked with the posture you adopt. In particular, slouching has been associated with feeling dull, sluggish, and sleepy. On the other hand, sitting up straight makes people feel more at ease and alert. In fact, other studies have shown that adopting a good posture while sitting has a positive effect on confidence. By sitting up straight in class, not only will you be able to avoid falling asleep but it will also improve your performance in discussions.
Chew gum or have a mint
If you’re starting to feel drowsy in the middle of class, pop a chewing gum or mint into your mouth. Mint is known for its refreshing scent and flavor, which is capable of stimulating the senses. Studies have shown exposure to mint lessens tiredness, enhances alertness, and increases motivation. Mint has also been shown to decrease stress without causing people to feel sleepy. So keep a pack of mints in your bag every time you go out.
Take out some essential oils
Essential oils are lauded for their usefulness. Apart from serving as perfume substitutes and aromatherapy agents, essential oils can also be used to prevent you from falling asleep. Studies have shown that inhaling certain types of essential oils can boost your energy and enhance your alertness. In particular, minty essential oils such as peppermint and eucalyptus as well as citrus essential oils like orange, lime, lemon, and grapefruit are popular choices for stimulating the senses. Be careful, however, in choosing essential oils, since some can cause the direct opposite. Oils such as chamomile and lavender can actually make you feel sleepy instead of waking you up.
Sit at the front and join the discussion
Staying awake in class can also be done by sitting in front and participating in class discussions. If you sit in front, you’re more likely to pay attention since there will be fewer distractions. The active discussion also usually takes place in front of the room, since there is a higher level of engagement between the professor and the students. With fewer distractions and more engagement around you, you’re less likely to fall asleep while in class.
Take a short break
If you’re still unable to stay awake despite your best efforts, the best thing you can do is to take a short break. Excuse yourself from the room and go for a quick walk to the bathroom. Physical activity is an excellent stimulant. Apart from improving your blood circulation and waking up your limbs from a stupor, physical exertion tells your brain that you’re not ready to sleep yet. Your brain, in turn, directs your body to increase your energy level. Taking a short break and coupling it with physical activity, therefore, wakes you up and saves you from snoozing in full view of your professor.
Take a nap between classes
If you have free time between classes, use it for taking naps. Studies have shown that a short nap lasting 15-20 minutes can decrease fatigue, increase alertness, boost energy level, and leave you feeling revitalized. In fact, extensive research has shown that naps are associated with greater productivity. Taking a short nap in your free time, therefore, can make you feel refreshed and ready for another round of classes. Be careful to not overdo it, though, since you don’t want your sleeping pattern being disrupted by too many naps during the day.
Sleeping in class is a big no-no. Aside from causing you to miss the discussion, sleeping can also rouse your professor’s irritation. But boredom is a real problem facing students. So the main question is: how to stay awake in class? As shown by the strategies above, staying awake and stopping yourself from falling asleep can be as easy as chewing some gum or taking a quick walk. With just a little effort and mindfulness, dozing off should no longer be that much of a problem for you as a student.
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