Campus life is full of sleepy students. The demanding schedules, the unhealthy food, the fluctuating sleep patterns, the tendency to wait until the last minute to write papers or study for a test. All-nighters and gallons of energy drinks are not the answer. For safe student health, here are some healthy and sustaining ways to stay awake and alert in dorm rooms, study halls and classrooms so you get the most out of your study time.
Food and drink tips to stay awake
- Eat a healthy diet. Nutrient rich foods like salad and soup as well as lean protein and a plain baked potato give you sustained energy for long stretches throughout the day. Too much fatty food like fries and nutrient deficient foods like pizza weigh your body down and give you the blahs.
- Eat breakfast. Breakfast gives your body fuel to work and gets your body into metabolism-burning mode for the rest of the day.
- Eat an apple or orange not a candy bar. Both will give you a sugar boost, but the natural sugar from the fruit will give you sustained energy without the hard crash afterwards.
- Stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water. “Water is even better for staying up when you’re studying. Dehydration can make you sleepy, so keeping your body hydrated will stave off those symptoms. If you are really sleepy, drink a lot of water to make sure you stay up,” wrote Jamie in “How to stay awake & alert while studying (without coffee!)” SurvivingCollegeLife.com, October 29, 2007.
- Drink coffee. Yes coffee and caffeine in soda work to keep you awake. An 8 oz cup of coffee has 95 mg of caffeine, soft drinks have 40-50 mg, 5-Hour Energy has 200 mg and Red Bull has 80 mg. Taken in moderation, spaced out throughout the day, caffeinated drinks will keep you awake. However, the Mayo Clinic advises that adults get no more than 500 mg of caffeine per day.
- Don’t eat or drink heavily before bed. Eating a big meal right before bed puts your stomach in digestive overdrive and make you feel heavy and full.
- Lay off the alcohol. Alcohol makes you sleepy.
Other tips to stay awake
- Take power naps throughout the day. You’d be surprised how much a 20-30 minute nap can refresh you. Aimee Hosler suggests in “Top 10 ways to stay awake in class” OnlineColleges.com, February 6, 2012: “Have an hour to kill before class? Take a power nap. According to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Mental Health, even short naps prevent burnout and provide a mental boost.”
- Keep a regular sleep routine. Schedule night time sleep the same time every day, say 11 pm to 6 am or 12 am to 7 am. Seven to eight hours per night is recommended. Pulling all-nighters disrupts your sleep patterns making it difficult to get a refreshing rest when you’re ready to go to sleep.
- Get up and walk around periodically. Jump, stretch, walk around the room, walk down the hall, throw a ball around with a friend for 10 minutes. Keep the blood flowing. Sitting in one spot, crouched over a desk for hours, will make you stiff and tired.
- Study in groups. Having a study buddy or two helps you bounce ideas around, practice lessons, memorize test subjects, and keep each other awake and alert.
- Study during daylight. Our bodies are naturally alert during daylight hours and goes into sleep mode when the natural light goes down and darkness approaches. Especially during the dark winter, do the majority of your studying during the day.
- Go to the gym or recreation center. Jessica McCoy reported in “How to stay awake during final exam week” DailyTitan.com, February 24, 2011: “Exercising helps relieve stress. … Take an hour away from studying and run on the treadmill, take a drop-in fitness class or run on the indoor track. Do something so your body can function and get its second wind.” Exercise does so much good to regulate your body’s rhythm for activity and sleep cycles. It also improves brain power and controls your weight.
- Be a little bit too cold. Studies have shown that the body’s metabolism runs more when you’re cold. So wear short sleeves, keep the heat low, take off a sweater. But don’t overdo it; being way too cold or being too warm both can make you more sleepy.
How do you stay awake when you’re studying?