Perhaps you didn’t get eight hours of sleep. Does anyone? Unfortunately, your professor doesn’t see the 4 a.m. snaps of you banging your head on the keyboard and doesn’t know that the deconstructive analysis of Voltaire’s critique of Europe might be the last thing you want to hear about in the morning. Sometimes it’s difficult to concentrate on what a professor is saying in class, much less figure out how to stay awake in class. “I literally just slept in class, no shame. I’m the one paying for it,” University of Florida sophomore Wesley Finch said. Don’t pull a Wesley.
And to give you even more options, we expanded our list to 21 ways to stay awake in class.
Before you make it to class, make sure you’re stocked up on totes so you can pack up your books in style.
Not sure how to stay awake in class? Here are 21 hacks to keep your eyes alert.
1. Tune in to your professor
If you’re at the point of the year when listening to Rebecca Black on repeat sounds more enjoyable than sitting through another dreadful lecture from your professor, this little trick might come in handy. The professor’s lessons can seem boring or repetitive, so try spicing it up. Memorize the words and put them to a tune in your head. It turns out that ‘the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell’ matches the tune of the Kiss song, “Rock and Roll All Night.” Warning: This technique may cause you to break out into song in class.
2. Fill your entire fridge with Red Bull
Energy drinks contain caffeine, which promotes stimulation. Neat, right? Some people suggest one Red Bull does the trick, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes it requires bringing a whole bandolier. “Make it into a drinking game,” University of California Los Angeles junior Emily Suani said. “Choose a word that the professor says frequently and take a sip every time they say it.” Hell, even just take a drink every time the professor says something you don’t find interesting. You’re guaranteed to finish the bandolier by the time class ends.
3. Befriend or be asleep
Befriend the person who sits behind you in class. If you start to doze off, make sure they tap you until you wake up. “Having a friend wake you up in class is a good tactic because if they are a true homie, they will only wake you up for the important stuff,” Walla Walla University junior Taylor Stanic said. Make sure they know the difference between sleeping and taking notes. Wait…they sit behind you all time, they know you never take notes in this class.
4. Walk like you’ve never walked before
Physical activity can wake you up and get the blood flowing. Just excuse yourself to the bathroom! This is the perfect time to wander the hallways and read the cluttered bulletin boards that you always overlook. Riveting. Oops, you’ve walked farther than you meant to. Crap, you’ve accidentally walked off campus. Well now it’s just too far to meander back. I guess you should just never go back to class again.
Drawing gets the creative juices flowing and fights the drowsiness. Open that composition book and doodle like your life depends on it…I mean, it kind of does (ever heard of dying of boredom?). By the end of class, you’ll have constructed a detailed depiction of a pirate cat fighting Godzilla with a pogo stick. Your friend peeking over your shoulder insists it looks like a fish and a bad-looking chair. He simply doesn’t know good art. If you really don’t know where to begin, buy one of those trending adult coloring books and practice coloring inside the lines…that’s a skill you’ll need in the real world.
6. Get some cold water
Drinking cold water wakes you up almost as well as getting splashed in the face by your roommates during a prank war. Make sure you get your recommended seven cups a day…in the face or in a water bottle. You will be sure to drink plenty of water if you keep that bottle of water next you you at all times. Hydration = the key to success.
7. Tap your way to the top
Tapping a pencil keeps your body and mind alert. It might drive the other students up a wall, but that’s their problem. Your goal is to survive the lecture, no matter what it takes. And who knows…maybe a music producer will visit campus and acknowledge your funky fresh beats. Now you’ve become a hip-hop beats maker and never have to go to class again. Dope.
8. Ask questions until you can’t think of any more
Still trying to stay awake? Next time you’re drifting off in microbiology, raise your hand and join the discussion. “Asking hella questions is good because it keeps you attentive, awake and helps you understand the lesson,” Walla Walla University sophomore Naomi Espley said. You can honestly ask the professor any question you want. Crowd favorites are “Where do babies come from?” and “What’s your opinion on the Big Bang Theory, the television show, not the actual theory?”
9. Become a campus culinary genius
Your mom was right when she said you should eat a balanced breakfast…it’s difficult to concentrate on an empty stomach! Didn’t have time to cook breakfast before your 9 a.m.? Make sure the classroom has an electrical outlet for a pancake griddle and dish it up in class. The aroma will make people jealous, but refuse to share with anyone. You brought home the bacon, not them. OK maybe share with your professor, but that’s where you draw the line.
10. Sit in the front
Omg do I have to? Sitting within spitting range of the professor is no bueno, but flunking out of your classes because you can’t keep your eyes open is just as bad. Let Mr. Boringpants hold you accountable by plopping yourself right in his line of vision. “Sitting in the front is helpful because you’ll feel intense shame every time the professor notices you nod off,” Suani said. Yeah, he might call you out every now and then, but before you know it you’ll be the teacher’s pet. You think he’s going to give the backrow bums an A? I didn’t think so.
11. Live Tweet the lecture
So you’re too addicted to your phone to sit in the front of the room. Fine, whatever, but if you’re going to be on Twitter, at least make it worth your while. Sum up each main point the professor makes into 140 characters and give your 13 loyal followers a free lesson on 18th century philosophy. You’re welcome.
12. Coffee forever coffee for always
There’s no better time to get addicted to coffee than college. Just woke up? Drink coffee. Just got out of class? Drink coffee. Need to procrastinate? Coffee. “Make coffee the night before and put it next to your bed. Set your alarm for 20 minutes before you seriously need to start getting up. Before you hit snooze for the first time, chug the cup of coffee,” UF sophomore and genius Meghan Cassidy said. “You’ll be awake by 20 minutes, if the sitting up and drinking doesn’t help you wake up first.” No better way to speed along that caffeine addiction than depending on it every morning to get up and stay awake.
13. Remind yourself how much this course cost to take
An effortless way to stay awake in class includes reminding yourself the cost of just sitting in that class. The more shuteye you have during lecture, the more dollars will fall into the garbage disposal of worthless bills. “Think about student debt,” UF sophomore Brendan Cassie said while UF sophomore Myndi Garcia went along the same optimistic page of reminding herself of “the crippling idea of failure.” Why not quell the nightmare you’ll have about an empty bank account during your nap in class when you can actually get your money’s worth by listening?
14. Drink green tea
Drinking coffee may help you stay awake during lecture, but the jitters it causes can sometimes prove counterintuitive when increased anxiety hinders your level of focus in class. If only you had a drink with natural caffeine that didn’t have those intense side effects. Oh, wait. Green tea can help boost your energy while, get this, remaining a healthy choice to keep you up. It can help with lessening anxiety, increasing your metabolism and helping you focus. It may not have as much caffeine as coffee, but did you really need that much in the first place?
15. Get a fidget toy
If you find yourself dozing off, avoid keeping your hands idle so your brain doesn’t follow suit. These gadgets will help you stay awake and (hopefully) focus on your professor and your note-taking. With your hand occupied, your brain can’t help but stay occupied with class, too. Make sure you don’t make it too obvious, though, or else your professor gets a new gadget and you get a new reason to sleep with a vengeance.
16. Take notes in different colors
This may seem strenuous at first, but actively thinking about what the topic of discussion is and what color it coincides with in your notes will keep you motivated to listen to lecture so you don’t mess up your perfectly organized notebook. Also, you’ll thank yourself later when you find yourself studying for finals last minute and need to find that specific topic you don’t remember at all. You can even go in and highlight the most important notes you know you’ll need to remember for later if you really want to make your notes turn into a masterpiece.
17. Power naps are your friend
Do you have a hard time keeping your energy and motivation up for afternoon lectures? I know I do. Instead of spending those 20 minutes of free time before your next class scrolling through Twitter, use that precious time enjoying a power nap. Don’t you dare go over 20 minutes of snoozing or else you’ll feel worse than you did before. With that perfect amount of sleep, you’ll make it through your lecture without finding your eyes close a half second longer each time you blink.
18. Take that almost painful cold shower
Although turning your bathroom into a sauna to start your day seems wonderful, that colder shower will help wake you up for that unrelenting 8:30 a.m. class. The shock your body feels from the cold will help keep you from falling back onto your bed while you wait for the bus to class. You can always reward yourself with that Jacuzzi temperature shower once you manage to stay upright during that 50-minute lecture.
19. IDK maybe get some sleep?
Binge watching any slightly average TV show from the 90s may seem tempting to keep you up past 1 a.m., but just remember: You have all summer to waste your time with bad show after bad show. Unless you’re taking summer courses, but don’t think about that. “Go to bed earlier the night before,” UF sophomore Adam Edwards said. It’s as simple as that. Even further, the more sleep you get, the easier it’ll feel to actually wake up on time. “I would wake up fifteen minutes earlier than I needed to so I could actually wake up when I got ready and be fully functioning when I got to my 830,” UF sophomore Kristen Jackson said. You know she has her life together. Why not join that rare group of college students with more than six hours of sleep a night? Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep.
20. Pretend you know how to yoga
It’s time to get your stretch on. You may look a little bit off while you touch your toes in front of your class, but getting the blood flowing matters more than your status of normalcy to passersby. You can pretend like you’re preparing for that nice jog around campus minus the whole exercise part. And it’s all in the name of staying awake to make those educational gains.
21. Eat that Altoid
Make sure to keep those mints and Altoids stocked in your bag when you feel the snores about to hit. The strong smell of mint will help trigger alertness in your brain that will keep you from nodding off during that exam review. Not only will this keep you awake, but you can also stay fresh just in case you get caught in conversation on your way out of class with that special someone. Yeah, you have the notes and can smoothly get those digits to send them on over. Staying awake has its perks other than getting that 4.0.
When it comes to staying awake in class, focus on both mental and physical stimulation. This is college after all and you’re paying quite a bit to learn in class. Do what it takes to stay awake for it, even if it means stimulating your overactive imagination or simply chewing on a pencil. If you can stay awake long enough to read articles, you can surely stay awake in class.
STEM students at the University of Florida use similar tactics to keep their eyes from shutting during lecture.
Written by: Kyle Cunningham
Science, Technology and Engineering-related majors use unique strategies to cope with their overwhelming workload and numerous late nights. No hate to liberal arts students, but the biochemistry major’s workload exists in an entirely different league than that of a political science student. The sleepless nights grinding out calculus and physics and everything in-between endured by these students makes them the prime demographic of tired college kids. They also have to stay awake in class. Dozing off in a philosophy class probably won’t help your grade, but if you even think about sleeping through an orgo lecture you’ll drop a letter grade .
STEM students at the University of Florida offered helpful insight about staying awake in class. Sandy Hutchins, a freshman, noted that he takes notes to tune in to his professors. “You can’t fall asleep if you’re constantly writing,” he said. He has a point, too. Getting into Alexander Hamilton mode during class can help you stay engaged in the material and keep yourself occupied. This habit has the quirky side effect of actually learning.
The STEM Gators vehemently supported another tip already mentioned: coffee. Pre-med freshmen Breann Barone and Jamie Harris stated that coffee ceases their lecture hall snoozes. Barone has seven hours of straight STEM classes on Wednesdays beginning with a 9:30 a.m. Bio 1 lecture. For Barone, the supply of coffee must be constant to get her through and sometimes she has to deviate to energy drinks or caffeinated teas. “I can’t function without lots of coffee or any form of caffeine, really,” said Barone, whose dilemma depicts a common debacle for college students. In order to succeed in Calc 2, you’ll need coffee as much as you will Calc 1.
Harris provided us with an example of what this looks like. Her mantra: “Better 15 minutes late with Starbucks than never, am I right?” While for incoming freshman or parents of students it may be a shock, the ruthless costs of staying upright in class are well known to students. The notion of missing 15 minutes has greater appeal than missing the lecture entirely because of sleep to the hardened academics at UF.
The STEM kids prove that no matter how much work a person has on their plate and how tired they are, they all use the same methods to stay awake: caffeine and engagement.
Not sure how to stay awake in class? Fixing your sleep schedule might help…
You don’t know how to stay awake in class, but you can still look cute in these t-shirts.
*Updated on January 3, 2017 by Kyler Alvord to include more tips and student quotes.
**Updated on May 4, 2017 by Rachel Walker to include more tips 12-21 and student quotes.
***Updated on Febraury 22, 2019 by Kyle Cunningham to include STEM Students advice on how to stay awake in class.