There are very few things that keep a spry 20-something down, but an 8 a.m. class is one of them. Keep from drooling all over your coursework by learning how to stay awake in class. And no, mainlining espresso isn't the only answer.
1. Take a Long Walk to Class
If you've only got 10 minutes to make it from one class to the next, then this might not work for you. But for those classes where you’ve got an hour or so in between, take 15 minutes to get your blood pumping. The great outdoors does wonders for centering the mind and the long walk will raise your heart rate. Think of it like taking a cold shower, but way more pleasant.
2. Stock Up on Protein Before Class
If you can't fight the post-meal sleepiness that overtakes you in your afternoon classes, consider what foods you're eating. Things like sugary drinks, snacks, or simple carbs can give you energy boosts. But they also lead to gnarly crashes. If you want to feel energized but not compelled to take a 30-minute power nap, try leaner proteins instead.
3. Practice Mindfulness in the Moment
When your eyelids start fluttering, you know you're in a losing battle. Instead of giving in to the Land of Nod, practice some mindful techniques. Isolate and identify things in the room with each of your senses. What are five things you can touch? Smell? See? Focusing your mind on an active experience rather than a passive one (like listening to a lecture) might keep you from falling asleep.
4. Wear Uncomfortable Clothes
Nobody wants to wear uncomfortable clothes to class, but it totally helps to keep you awake. Have you ever slept in a fitted blazer or pants with a belt buckle that keeps digging into your stomach? Yeah, we didn’t think so.
5. Chew Some Gum
Chewing gum (mint gum in particular) is a unique way to keep our brains alert and focused on the tasks at hand. So, if you feel the zzz's coming on, pop a piece of gum in your mouth.
A study published in 2015 found that "chewing gum can enhance attention, as well as [promote] well-being and work performance."
6. Try to Actively Participate in Class
Being sedentary and silent won't help you stay awake because they mimic your state of mind when you're lying in bed at night. Instead, try to be an active participant. Ask questions as they come up or offer responses to the ones your teacher poses. If it’s a Socratic method, do your fair share of participating in the conversation. Pushing your body to be active should keep it from trying to fall asleep.
7. Control Your Breathing
Taking measured deep breaths isn’t just good for panic attacks. It's also a great way to keep your sleepiness at bay. If you feel you're nodding off, try the 4-5-6 breathing method. Inhale for four seconds through your nose, hold your breath for five seconds, and exhale through your mouth for six seconds.
8. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated isn't just good for your skin. Hydration helps with all of the body’s functions and can give your mind the boost it needs to last through your entire class.
Other Ways to Stop You From Feeling Tired in Class
Staying awake in class starts with getting a good night’s rest. You might not totally change your night owl tendencies, but if you’re struggling to manage a good sleep schedule, help out your circadian rhythm with these tips:
- Try to lie down at least eight hours before your first alarm.
- Don't schedule big evening events the day before your early morning classes.
- Exercise before bed to fall asleep quicker.
- Schedule classes later in the day or with larger breaks between them.
- Avoid overloading on caffeine right before class.
- Keep your room cool to encourage a longer sleep cycle.
- Try cold plunging (or taking a cold shower) in the morning.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
Related: 13 Ways to Help You Fall Asleep
Pick the Right Time to Fall Asleep
Sometimes you can't help being tired in class. But once you know how to stay awake — beyond chugging six shots of espresso — you’ll be able to conquer those early morning classes with ease.