September 24th, 2007 Jamie
My first quarter of college I didn’t know how to stay awake in class. I took an early morning psychology course with three girls I’d met in the dorms. Just before class, we rolled out of bed, stumbled to the lecture hall class with our eyes barely open, and settled into a row of squishy seats in the lecture hall. Then 3 out of 4 of us would fall asleep—whoever stayed awake would take notes.
Obviously, I did not get an A in that class–I was catching Z’s instead. So, how can YOU stay awake in class?
As a college student, I can almost guarantee that you need more sleep, so you should start there. You probably don’t want to go to bed earlier, but you should. Give yourself an extra hour every night, and see if that helps. You might need more. Even a nap can help!
If you live in the dorms, making the above changes still probably won’t get you to sleep enough. So just in case, here are some things that worked well for me when I wanted to stay awake through a lecture:
Take notes by hand
When you take notes on a laptop, you tend to be much less focused, because typing is much more automatic. You also finish faster and sometimes drift off (or start IMing people). Taking notes by hand is slower, so it makes you focus on keeping up with the lecture.
Eat healthy snacks
Eating a snack—especially carbs and proteins—can help energize you. I liked taking a bag of healthy cereal like Cheerios to my very early or very late classes. I would eat the cereal one piece at a time—the carbs plus the act of making myself take one at a time really helped me stay awake. If you need a burst of energy, try eating fruit like sliced apples or grapes instead of a candy bar. Junk food, obviously, is not a good option.
Dehydration can really wipe you out, so bring a water bottle to class with you. Neither soda nor alcohol (which is very dehydrating) is a good substitute for water to keep your body hydrated.
Get interested in the lecture
A lot of your interest in a lecture is affected by your attitude. If you go in thinking it’s going to be boring, you’ll probably be bored. Even if you’re taking a required class, try to get interested in the lecture each day; it will help you stay alert. Try to learn at least three things you didn’t know, and tell someone about them after class. It might sound kind of lame, but it will help you stay awake and learn.
Good luck! And also, remember to check out my tips about how to stay awake & alert while studying (without coffee!).
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