If you’re a student, you have most likely been in a situation when you need to study, but the overwhelming urge to sleep won’t let you learn.
Sleepiness while studying is one of the most common problems every student faces. As such, methods to avoid feeling sleepy are what many of them are looking for during a study session.
Solving the problem of daytime sleepiness may require some time and effort, but it is ultimately worth it. Here are four ways you can avoid feeling sleepy while studying:
- Make lifestyle changes.
- Change your study habits.
- Power through with the naps.
- See a specialist.
If daytime sleepiness is a problem you need to overcome, read on to learn about the best methods of fighting it. We have also come up with a few fun tips to help you stay awake and alert while studying.
Are You a Sleepy Student?
You have probably had that one person in your group that is always sleeping in class (if you are not that person yourself).
Numerous studies have shown that more than 50% of students have sleeping problems. If you have ever wondered whether or not you are among the prevailing majority, do a quick test by asking yourself a few questions:
- How often do I fall asleep in class?
- Do I find classes boring? With this question, try to evaluate whether you are being objective enough or not. Do you have a hard time focusing my attention on listening to the lecturer or doing a specific task?
- How long can I read, write, and study before my attention and mind wander?
- How difficult is it for me to wake up early in the morning to go to class?
Asking yourself these simple questions and answering them honestly and objectively will help you understand if sleepiness is affecting your academic life. If so, you need to take some necessary steps to fix the situation.
Read on to learn more about students’ daytime sleepiness and methods you can use to fight it.
Why Do Students Get Sleepy While Studying?
Before learning how to fight sleepiness while studying, you need to know what causes sleepiness.
Although the causes are very individual, there are a few primary reasons why most students have a big desire to sleep when they have to study.
Lack of nutrition
Many students don’t take a healthy and nutritious diet seriously, and their energy levels suffer as a result.
One thing you need to understand is that the food you consume serves as fuel for our body and brain. When studying – especially when the subject requires a lot of concentration – a healthy diet is essential.
In many cases, students, instead of consuming brain food such as blueberries, nuts, and dark chocolate, prefer to eat unhealthy and non-nutritious food. In the long run, this results in a student who has no energy to study and wants to take a nap instead of open a textbook.
Sometimes the brain gets tired – any student you talk to can confirm that.
After a few months of studying and taking exams, your brain gets exhausted, and sleepiness during classes is one of the main symptoms of brain strain.
Scientists have learned that brain fatigue is closely associated with physical fatigue. So, if you notice that you have been feeling tired while studying, try to give your body and mind a little rest, as their exhaustion is very likely to be the cause of your sleepiness.
Burnout and lack of motivation
Almost every student starts the school year with a ton of motivation and energy and usually does well for the first few months.
But sometimes, things do not go as smoothly as they started. Students start feeling a drastic change in how they behave in class. The changes in the behavior and how students’ treat’ their school or university life is, in some cases, associated with a phenomenon called burnout.
We all know that studying is stressful. If this stress persists for a long time, it can cause burnout: a state that results in mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion accompanied by a lack of motivation and a negative mindset.
So if you are experiencing sleepiness while studying, try to evaluate the state you are in and either prevent or recover from the emotional and physical burnout.
A few other factors can also cause sleepiness while studying:
- An unsuitable study environment
- Poor bedtime habits
- Uninteresting class activities
- Sleep-related illnesses
Consequences of Feeling Sleepy While Studying
If you are constantly tired in class or when you are studying at home and doing your homework, your overall academic performance will be affected by it. Many studies have been conducted to find out the direct link between students’ academic success and how much sleep they are getting.
One of the key takeaways of these studies is that students who have a well-organized sleeping schedule and stick to it are more likely to have higher GPAs. You may think that grades are affected by the fact that you are half-asleep during the lesson. However, research has shown that an irregular sleeping schedule also affects students’ cognitive functions.
So, the problem is not the mere fact that one may be snoring and sleeping in class, but the fact that their thinking abilities are decreased.
Here is what you can expect if you are a student that is always sleepy while studying:
- Lower grades.
- Lack of concentration.
- Decreased attention.
- Falling behind your classmates.
Another major outcome of sleepiness while studying is anxiety. If a student has been half-asleep during classes, the exam season usually turns into a nightmare and causes even more anxiety and stress than it usually does.
How to Avoid Feeling Sleepy While Studying
Feeling sleepy while studying is quite common among students. Numerous factors can cause you to feel tired while reading, listening to the lecturer, or doing your homework.
There are several methods you can use to fight sleepiness and become a productive student that makes the most out of his/her classes. These methods include not only simple adjustments that you should make to your study environment, but also fundamental changes that will make your life better.
Make lifestyle changes
If daytime sleepiness is something that interferes with studying, then you need to make some lifestyle changes. Healthy everyday habits will not only help you to overcome your sleepiness problem but will also improve your productivity and overall quality of life.
Go to bed early and get 7-9 hours of sleep
If you want to defeat studying-induced sleepiness, getting an adequate amount of sleep is paramount. You cannot be productive and energetic if you are not getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
But only getting the required amount of sleep is not enough. You also need to ensure you get quality sleep.
If you want a high-quality night of sleep, use the following tips:
- Set up a relaxing bedtime routine. Try meditating, listening to classical music, and reading before you head to sleep.
- Turn your digital devices off before bed. This includes your phone, computer, and TV. If you like to watch TV or Netflix before bed, try to schedule those activities for earlier in the day. And if you do need to use your phone, at least use a blue-light filter to prevent the harsh phone light from bothering your eyes.
- Play a relaxing, repetitive sound from a speaker. White noise, rainfall, and ocean waves are all excellent ideas.
- Take a bath before falling asleep. Baths are an excellent way to calm yourself down after a hectic day. To make your bath even more relaxing, use lavender bath salts to surround yourself with a calming aroma.
- Cuddle up with a pet. If you have a cat or dog, cuddling up with them can reduce your stress levels and make it easier to fall asleep.
You should also try to go to bed early. Rearrange your schedule and try to get all the necessary tasks done relatively early in the day. Doing this almost always guarantees you get an adequate amount of sleep.
Wake up at the same time every day
Another sleeping habit worth getting into is being consistent with your wake up time.
Surprisingly enough, specialists do not recommend sleeping longer on weekends. This is something that a lot of us are guilty of and even consider it to be a reward for our tired selves.
However, waking up at the same time every day will help you avoid insomnia and have a more consistent sleeping schedule.
If you feel sleepy during classes, it does not necessarily mean that you have a sleep deficit. In many cases, constant tiredness and an inability to participate in class is an indication that the student lacks energy.
The primary source of energy for students should be their meals. A healthy breakfast and lunch are of paramount importance for students.
You should avoid meals that are heavy or full of sugar. Instead, opt for healthy and nutritious food that will give you enough energy to stay alert while learning.
Did you know that dehydration causes sleepiness?
If you aren’t drinking enough water and are looking for a reason why you always feel sluggish, dehydration should be one of the main suspects.
So if you want to prevent daytime sleepiness and stay productive and alert all throughout the day, you should drink at least eight cups of water per day.
To make it easy to get an adequate amount of water each day, you can buy a large water bottle and fill it up each morning. Make it your goal to finish it by the end of the day, and you should be able to get enough water without much effort.
It’s no secret that exercising helps to improve the quality of our daily lives.
Even a daily 10-minute workout session will give you a good boost of energy and keep you fresh and awake throughout the day.
Exercising also helps with stress management and improving sleep quality, which is undoubtedly something every student needs.
Aside from exercising, another thing you should do in order not to nap while studying is keep yourself moving.
If you have long and tough study sessions, keep yourself alert by standing up and moving around from time to time. Walk around, jump, stretch – anything that will get your blood flowing!
Change your study habits
You may get an adequate amount of sleep, eat healthily, and exercise – and yet you might still feel sleepy the moment your study session starts.
Why is this?
There are two possibilities.
Either you’re not studying in a way that can keep your attention, or your study environment is not conducive to prolonged study sessions.
No matter which problem you’re dealing with, the following advice should help you out.
Study in an organized and well-lit environment
Many movies show studying in a dark room that only has a singular dim lamp light. As impressive as the cinematography may look, a low-light environment that will make you want to sleep – not study.
In order to stay awake and avoid sleepiness, you should study in a room that has ample lighting.
As for the overall study environment, try to keep it as organized as possible. A well-organized room will motivate you to sit at your desk and focus on what you should learn.
Also, when studying at home, try to stick to a desk and a chair and not to your bed and pajamas. Some students even find it effective to learn standing up – this is said to be good for concentration.
Keeping the room cooler than usual is another way to keep yourself awake and improve focus.
Study with someone else
Studying with a partner is one of the most effective ways of staying focused while learning. Aside from being motivating, it will also keep you awake and attentive.
If you are studying with a group of people and are still facing the problem of sleepiness, try participating in discussions and staying active in the conversation. The additional effort – and the social stigma of falling asleep in a group – should be more than enough to keep you awake.
Change up your study topics
One of the main reasons students get sleepy while studying is because they get bored.
To avoid boredom, try to alter your study topics when doing assignments. Moving to another task when you start yawning will help you keep your study sessions more interesting.
For example, if you have been solving math problems, try putting them to the side after an hour and working on a task that requires more creativity. This will help your mind stay active and will prevent exhaustion and boredom.
Take notes and read out loud
If you’re not in class, and there is no one to accompany you while you are doing your homework, you need to think of some ways to keep yourself engaged in the learning process.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Read out loud instead of reading silently to yourself.
- Take notes whenever you’re reading your textbook. This will keep your mind more active than if you were reading without taking notes.
Power through with naps
Napping is one of the best ways to overcome daytime sleepiness.
There are two things you should consider when napping: the length of the nap and the time of day you take your nap.
Not only do power naps feel fantastic, but they are also life-changing if you suffer from daytime sleepiness.
Naps that only last for 20-30 minutes are called power naps, and they are called this for a reason. Taking a half-hour break to rest is an excellent way to revitalize yourself and get a boost of mental alertness.
Aside from short power naps, you can also have longer ones that last from 30 to 90 minutes. Taking longer naps can enhance your memorization and problem-solving skills, so I recommend a longer nap if you have a tough day of studying ahead of you.
Nap in the afternoon
The afternoon is the perfect time to take a nap if you have been studying since morning.
Sleep specialists recommend taking naps before 3 P.M.
If you take a sleep after this time, there’s a decent chance it will interfere with your nighttime sleep schedule – which will make you tired the following day and cause daytime sleepiness.
Take coffee naps
While a coffee nap may sound intimidating, it’s often the best way to get a burst of energy.
A coffee nap is essentially a short 20-minute sleep break preceded by a cup of coffee. This kind of nap provides a quick boost in energy level and can keep you going for hours once you wake up.
Tips for making the most out of your naps:
- Have a consistent napping schedule. A napping schedule will make it easier to take naps and can help your daily performance change for the better. The recommended time for taking naps is between 1 P.M. and 3 P.M.
- Set an alarm. You may think that you don’t need to set an alarm to wake up from a nap, as 20 minutes is not long enough to fall into a deep sleep. But unfortunately, you will fall into a deep sleep if you stay asleep past the 20-minute mark. So, set an alarm unless you want to sleep through your study sessions.
- Get cozy. If you are going to nap, do it in the right environment. Try to go back to your bedroom if possible. If you can’t, use a sleep mask and earplugs to block out the light and surrounding noises.
- Wear a blanket. Your body temperature falls when you sleep, so a blanket is needed to stay warm and comfortable.
- Keep your phone off. It’s almost impossible to take a nap if you’re playing with your phone while you’re lying down. If you need to use your phone for the alarm, keep the ringer on silent and turn the screen off.
See a Sleep Specialist
Although feeling sleepy while studying may be caused by an unorganized sleeping schedule or unhealthy habits, excessive daytime sleepiness may also have more serious causes.
As such, you should see a specialist if the methods above do not help with your sleepiness issue.
Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy, are common causes of people feeling excessively sleepy throughout the day.
For many people – including students – these disorders go on unnoticed and, thus, are not appropriately treated. The consequences of these problems not being dealt with properly results in persistent sleepiness and fatigue, which gets in the way of everyday activities.
Certain drugs can also cause sleepiness. You must consult a specialist to make sure the medications you are taking aren’t the cause of your fatigue issues.
No matter what the cause is, a sleep specialist will identify the underlying problem and help you to eliminate it with medications and therapies.
So, if you’re constantly feeling sleepy while studying, consider seeing a specialist to check for an underlying sleep disorder.
Tips for Staying Awake While Studying
To fight your sleepy self and overcome daytime sleepiness while studying, you need to make significant lifestyle changes.
Here are a few tips that can help you out in situations when you need to stay awake and study.
Chewing gum is proven to have positive effects on your focus and learning abilities.
It’s not the gum-chewing itself that is beneficial – it’s the repetitive motion you make as you chew the gum. Tapping your foot will provide similar focus benefits.
Drink coffee while reading
Drinking coffee to stay awake is very common among students.
If you do drink coffee to stay awake, don’t chug it all at once!
Doing this will give a quick “caffeine attack,” which might cause you to feel over-energized and anxious. Drinking your coffee slowly will not only provide a better experience as far as caffeine processing goes, but will also allow you to relax for a few minutes.
Listen to music
Listening to music may not work for everyone, especially those who have a hard time concentrating on something.
However, listening to non-distracting music is a great way to stay awake while you are doing your assignments.
With this tip, you must stick to a relaxing instrumental genre. Classical music, for example, would be perfect. Try not to choose songs that you are likely to sing or dance along, as you won’t get much studying done.
Don’t get too comfortable
Getting too comfortable while studying is a problem when you are at home and have a lot of tasks you need to do.
One may think that getting into comfy clothes or studying in bed or on the couch is a good idea, but that is one of the biggest mistakes a sleepy student can make.
When studying, it is recommended that you sit at a desk and use good posture. Not only does this keep you away from the temptation of napping, but it also lets you concentrate and finish your work in a much shorter time.
Talk to yourself
In class, it’s easy to talk to a friend or participate in a discussion to stay awake.
At home, however, when you are all by yourself preparing for an exam or working on an assignment, one of the best ways to avoid sleepiness is talking to yourself.
Encourage yourself and say out loud what you are going to do next. Keeping yourself focused with vocal exercises like these will make it much easier to push through the study sessions.
Wash your face with cold water
Washing your face when you feel like you are falling asleep is a great way to wake yourself up and go on studying. Just make sure the water is not ice cold, as this can feel uncomfortable.
An alternative to washing your face is brushing your teeth. Doing this will refresh your face and give you another burst of energy.
Sleepiness while studying is a common problem for many students.
Although there are several ways to fight sleepiness, you must first understand what causes it before fighting it.
Daytime sleepiness is caused by issues that range from mild to severe. Some students can fix their problems with a slight change in their pre-sleep routine, while others will need to see a sleep specialist to handle a deeper issue.
Once you have determined what causes your daytime sleepiness, you must make changes in your daily life to destroy the desire to nap a few times a day.
To recap, here are the most common causes of daytime sleepiness:
- Poor sleep schedule
- Sleep-related illnesses
- Poor nutrition
- Brain strain
And here are some tips you can use to fix these issues:
- Make a better pre-sleep routine.
- Take daily naps.
- See a sleep specialist.
- Eat a healthier diet.
- Change your study habits.
- Stay hydrated.
- Exercise regularly.
- Wake up at the same time every day.