After a long day of classes and fulfilling other responsibilities, it’s hard to keep your eyes open while studying--especially if you're trying to balance teaching and grad school! You may even find yourself dozing off while reading, and if you’re struggling to stay awake, it’s going to be difficult to remember anything you’ve studied! To fix this, try these tips to keep you awake while studying.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
Foods packed with sugar, simple carbohydrates, processed ingredients, and trans fats are notorious for draining your energy.
For sustained fuel during study sessions, you'll want to eat a healthy and balanced diet. Choose nutrient-dense foods like salads made with leafy greens, whole grains, and lean proteins. For sugar boosts, stick to fruit with natural sugars and avoid candy, soda, and high-sodium snacks.
Here are some of our favorite "power foods" for keeping your mind sharp and your energy high while studying:
- Plain Greek yogurt with berries and granola
- Hummus and raw veggies like celery and carrots for dipping
- Brown rice and black beans
- Lean fish like like salmon and tilapia
- Sauteed vegetables including broccoli, zucchini, bell peppers, etc.
- Apples with peanut butter
- Tuna salad with sliced tomatoes
2. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration can also make you sleepy. To combat this, make sure that you drink plenty of water while studying. Keep a large bottle of water next to you and take a big swig whenever you start to feel tired.
You can encourage yourself to drink water more regularly by flavoring it naturally with fruit or a splash of juice, but avoid consuming too much sugar, which will inevitably lead to a crash. Carbonated water like La Croix is also wildly popular these days, so if that's more your speed, have a case of those on hand!
3. Chew Gum
Many students claim that chewing gum while studying helps them stay alert. Keep a few packs of your favorite gum flavors with your books and notes, so you can grab a piece when you need it.
4. Rotate Study Topics
To prevent mental exhaustion, try to rotate what you study. When you start to feel yourself fading, move to the next topic that you need to cover.
Ever heard of the Pomodoro Technique? It's a time management technique that involves working in 25 minute "chunks" followed by 5 minute breaks. You can break your subjects into these chunks and cycle through them, which will allow your mind to stay sharp and help you avoid burnout.
For example, an example of a Pomodoro study cycle might look like this:
- Study Microbiology for 25 minutes
- Take a 5 minute break
- Study Chemistry for 25 minutes
- Take a 5 minute break
- Study Life Sciences for 25 minutes
- Take a 5 minute break
- Return to top of list and repeat as long as desired.
5. Drink Caffeinated Beverages
Drinking caffeinated beverages will, in fact, help keep you awake. At least in theory.
But a word of caution here. Too much caffeine can be a bad thing, leading to jitters, nausea, and ultimately a crash leading to the reverse effect: energy depletion.
Mayo Clinic recommends drinking no more than 500-600 mg of caffeine per day, and for reference, an 8-oz cup of coffee has just under 100 mg.
Definitely try to space out your caffeine consumption over the course of the day and to stay hydrated. Also, many teas have less caffeine than coffee (check the labels for exact amount per tea), so this may be a better place to start if you're not a regular caffeine consumer.
6. Refrain from Alcohol
Alcohol is a depressant, so it will undoubtedly make you sleepy--which is not conducive to studying. In other words, save it for your post-study session celebration!
To make studying a little more fun though,try one of these delicious (alcohol-free) "mocktail" recipes!
7. Take Power Naps
Napping can be a dangerous game when it comes to studying since napping can quickly turn into...going to bed for the night!
But a true power nap can make all the difference. If you have time between classes or extra time in the evening, take a short nap, ideally 20 and no more than 30 minutes. You may be shocked at how much more refreshed you feel afterwards!
And of course, as always, make sure to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night for optimal health and energy, and stick to a regular sleep schedule if possible.
8. Get Up and Move
It may sound counterproductive, but believe it or not, moving your body will often help energize you when you start to get sluggish during study sessions.
You don't have to do full workouts, but try getting up and "shaking it out" or "dancing it off" for 5 minutes and then returning to your studies. A short walk around the block is also a good way to get the blood flowing and your mind stimulated in a different way.
There are also so many workout apps these days, many of which offer 5-10 minute workout options. You can do these from the comfort of your own home, usually with minimal space required.
9. Study with Others
A study buddy or small study group can make studying so much more rewarding. For one, working with others help keep you accountable. But also, you can take turns looking up answers, quiz each other, explain concepts to one another, and so on.
10. Don’t Get Too Comfortable
Before you settle in to study, prepare your study area. Just don’t make the area too comfortable. Use bright lights (that aren't too hard on your vision), keep the temperature slightly cooler than normal, and/or get rid of your chair and stand up.
For effective study sessions, you'll need to be awake, alert, and focused. And remember, studying doesn't mean much if you won't be able to recall what you've studied. Give one or a few (or all!) of these tips a whirl, and let us know which ones helped the most.