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La Cañada High School

Tips on staying awake while studying

You check the clock. 2:37 a.m. With a yawn, you rub the sleep out of your blurry eyes, fatigue looming over your brain in a dense fog. Gazing at the stacks of notes still left to go through, you feel your heart sink to your feet in despair.

If the world ended tomorrow, then no Spanish oral…. Or should I just fake being sick? Break a bone? Cut an electrical line from the school?

As the minutes tick by, you feel your thoughts slipping into a familiar sleep-deprived delirium, a brink of absurdity and irrationality that leaves you wishing for a miracle. But alas, what must be done must be done, and you grab your 5-hour-energy for another long chug to keep you going through the night. 

Such is the life of a typical high schooler — “typical” meaning your fun, average, poor-at-time-managing student who has passed the devil’s hour one too many times. It is people like us, friends of caffeine and enemies of screen-time, that are in a long-distance relationship with sleep. But during crucial times of exams and finals, she can be a bit overbearing, appearing without notice in the middle of a lecture or review session. 

So, as an expert in the field, I have decided to reach out “counseling” to everyone. After years and years of trial-and-error and personal experience, I present to you: 7 tips on how to stay awake while you’re studying.

1. Eat!

Though you should probably be careful about snacking too late at night to avoid unintended weight gain, eating can restore your energy and keep your mouth and hands constantly moving. The best options are anything with lean protein and carbs, rather than sugar or high-fat foods, like yogurt, peanut butter, or fruit. Gum also works (and it’s, like, 7 calories), but I found that after a whole day of gum-chewing, my jaw was really sore the next day, so maybe don’t overdo it.

2. Chew on sunflower seeds

Strangely enough, sunflower seeds are often used by drivers who need to stay alert behind the wheel. The process of removing the seed from the shell stimulates our mind, and the nutrients help restore energy. 

3. Stay cold

Being warm can make you sleepy. Whether it be sucking on an ice cube, ditching the blanket, or studying in summer shorts in 50-degree weather, try to keep yourself as cool as possible without putting yourself at risk for a cold.

4. Stare directly at a light

Bright light mimics the effect of sunlight, so at night, surround yourself with the brightest lights possible. You probably shouldn’t actually stare directly into a light, though, in case you go blind, but theoretically, it should keep you awake…. 

5. Get up and do jumping-jacks

Sitting still for an excessive amount of time is almost always followed by cramps and sores, not to mention inevitable drowsiness that accompanies a lack of movement. Try doing a couple workouts or moving around a bit before resuming your studies — it can give you an energy boost and keep you from diving right back into bed.

6. Turn up the club music

Logically, it’s harder to fall asleep in a loud room than a quiet room. Playing upbeat songs can increase focus and give the illusion of a busy, bustling environment. Just be careful not to play a song that you’re bound to sing along to so that it doesn’t become a distraction.

7. When all else fails, just slap yourself awake.

Pretty self-explanatory.

Okay, so you’ve tried it all. But you just can’t seem to stay awake, no matter how hard you try. In that case, here are some extra bonuses on how to fake being awake in class.

1. When the class is reading the textbook, keep your head lowered and facing the page. 

The teacher can’t see your eyes directly, only the top of your head, so even with your eyes closed, you’ll blend right in with everyone else reading the textbook.

2. Look up and make eye contact with the teacher every few minutes, nod a little bit, then resume the nap. 

Chances are, the teacher probably won’t be staring at you when there are 30 other students in the room. Frequent eye contact will give the illusion that you’re attentive and paying attention, unlike probably everyone else.

3. Look really sad and lost at the beginning of class. Then, when the timing is right, put your head down in dramatic despair. 

This one’s for desperate measures, but it’ll give you an excuse to put your head down and cover your face. 

In the best-case scenario, you won’t have to use any of these tips as you study, especially during class. But as much as we’d all love to get our full 8 hours of sleep every night, sometimes, it just isn’t possible. So until we can finally reconcile our relationship with sleep, these tricks will hopefully come in handy for all the struggling, sleep-deprived students out there.