Staying awake in class is easiest when you get sufficient sleep at night. Getting enough sleep helps you feel well-rested and keeps your mind and body healthy. Still, there may be some days when you need to find ways to stay awake and remain focused in class. On those days, you can make use of a number of strategies to help you get through the day.
Get Enough Sleep Each Night
Dr. Pranshu Adavadkar,
It is vital for students to get enough sleep for school, regardless of their age. Getting the right amount of sleep can help students feel less tired in class, stay focused, and complete their schoolwork effectively .
School-age children aged 6 to 12 years old typically need 9 to 12 hours of sleep per night, while teens between 13 and 18 years old require 8 to 10 hours of sleep. Adults 18 and older should fit at least seven hours of sleep each night into their schedules.
Not drinking enough water during the day may make you feel more tired . Although there are no expert recommendations on the amount of water to consume each day, most adults need at least 90 fluid ounces of water daily from food and drinks. People who are very physically active may need more water.
To avoid dehydration, experts suggest drinking water regularly throughout the day, especially when you feel thirsty. Ways to drink more water include bringing a water bottle to class and having a glass of water when eating a snack or meal.
Adolescents skip breakfast more than any other meal of the day. However, research shows that a nutritious breakfast is important for overall physical and mental health. Eating a healthy breakfast before school also gives the body the fuel it needs to prevent energy dips during morning classes.
A balanced breakfast helps supply you with the energy to make it through class. If time is an issue before school, consider preparing healthy easy-to-pack foods to take along in the morning. Healthy breakfast and snack options include:
- Whole grains
- Low-fat yogurt
Pack a Healthy Snack
Keep your energy up by preventing low blood sugar in the afternoon, which can make you feel tired. Eating can prevent your blood sugar from dipping, so having a pre-packed snack in between meals may be a good way to regain some energy during afternoon classes.
High-protein foods and low-glycemic carbohydrates are good picks for sustained energy. If you start to feel tired around the same time each day, try eating a healthy snack like fruit, low-fat cheese, or yogurt near that time. If you usually get tired during a specific class, try eating your snack right before class begins.
You can also try chewing gum during class if snacking is not allowed. Studies suggest that chewing gum during tasks that require attention can improve alertness.
Stretch or Move
Research shows that taking movement breaks or moving during class may improve focus and reduce fatigue. Classrooms that welcome physical activity have been shown to increase attention, decrease distractions, and reduce mental fatigue.
It may not always be possible to get up and move during class. If you do not get active breaks in class, try stretching between classes . A short stretching routine may help you feel less tired. It may also improve your mood and cognitive function as you prepare for your next class.
Get Sunlight During Breaks
Sunlight helps keep your body’s circadian rhythms on track, which can keep you feeling awake during the day. Stepping outside during classroom breaks or even sitting near a sunny window can help you shake off your drowsiness and may improve your mood as well.
If you have time before you go to school, consider taking a walk outside. The combined benefits of physical activity and sunlight may help reduce fatigue in the middle of class.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant that promotes alertness and reduces sleepiness. It works by blocking adenosine, a compound the brain releases to make you feel tired. You can get caffeine from several sources, including coffee, energy drinks, soda, and medications.
Experts discourage caffeine use by children and adolescents. Adults should limit caffeine to 400 milligrams or less daily. This is around the amount of caffeine in two to four 8-ounce cups of brewed coffee. It is also important to use caffeine with caution, as having too much or taking it too close to bedtime can interfere with nighttime sleep.
Take a Quick Nap
Getting enough sleep at night should be your number one goal for preventing fatigue during class. However, taking a nap may help you fight drowsiness and make it easier to stay awake in class.
Some research shows that having just a 10-minute nap can significantly improve alertness and cognitive performance. If you have more time to spare between classes, try a 20-minute nap, which may effectively reduce sleepiness. However, be careful not to nap too long or too late in the afternoon, as this can interfere with nighttime sleep.
What to Avoid to Stay Awake
Some strategies might help you feel more awake for a short time, but their drawbacks can outweigh their benefits.
- Sugar: Although there has been a long-held belief that sugar consumption increases energy, even if only temporarily, researchers have widely agreed that this is a myth .
- Alcohol: Alcohol acts as both a stimulant and sedative. Although you might feel more awake when you first drink alcohol, this effect eventually wears off and can leave you feeling extremely tired.
- Tobacco and vapes: Cigarettes and many vapes contain nicotine, which may help some people feel more awake and alert. Still, nicotine is highly addictive and can cause several health problems, like elevated blood pressure and withdrawal symptoms. You might also have trouble falling asleep at night if you use tobacco products because of their stimulant effects.
Ways to Improve Your Sleep Schedule
If you frequently feel tired during class, you may not be getting enough sleep at night. Inadequate sleep can also affect your school performance, so practicing good sleep hygiene is often an effective way to improve your bedtime routine and get better rest. Consider the following tips to get into a healthy sleep routine:
- Avoid naps later in the afternoon
- Go to bed around the same time each night
- Set an alarm to wake up at the same time each morning
- Do not use electronics near bedtime
- Do something relaxing to wind down before sleep
- Stay active during the day
- Get plenty of sunlight in the daytime and keep the bedroom dark at night
Sometimes, inadequate sleep is caused by an underlying sleep disorder. If you consistently feel tired during the day even after taking steps to improve your sleep hygiene, consider talking to your doctor to find additional support.